Whether you're studying for an exam, preparing for an interview, or perfecting that all-important work presentation, it can often feel like there simply aren't enough hours in the day to process and retain all that information. Many of us burn the candle at both ends, working late into the night to complete what we need to do. But could this be the worst thing we can do? A recent study has revealed that rather than boosting productivity levels, staying up throughout the night can actually be harmful to the brain. Fortunately, burning the midnight oil isn't the only option. Good quality sleep could well be the secret to helping us to achieve our learning goals...
Do we learn whilst we're asleep?
Many experts believe that we continue learning long after we fall asleep. Our brains are actually very active when we're asleep, and this is when a process known as 'memory consolidation occurs'. This involves the brain turning information into lasting memories, busily processing and consolidating our recollections from the day before. The question is, if sleep is vital for building memories, can we take advantage of that and choose to learn whilst we're fast asleep?
Can sleep-learning help us learn brand new information?
Sleep-learning refers to the brain's ability to learn information from material heard whilst we're asleep. You may have seen audio books that you can listen to during sleep in order to learn a new language or a particular skill. Whilst this does sound like the ideal solution to learning for an exam or committing a speech to memory, it's not so clear cut. Research has demonstrated that you can’t learn completely new information while asleep. Sleep can enhance your memory, but it won't help you learn the information to begin with.
So, whilst there's no method that allows you to soak up brand new material while you're unconscious, that doesn’t mean that you still can’t use sleep to boost your memory. A good night's sleep can help your brain to cement the facts or skills learned throughout the day, ensuring that you have a better grasp of the content that you need to memorise.