Humans May Be Able To Form New Memories During Sleep – Study Shows


For a long period of time, people have always preferred studying late instead of heading to bed the night before an exam. It is also a common portrayal in movies or on popular television shows. In addition, some may even wake up early to revise everything all over again.

In some cultures across the globe, this is encouraged by pedagogues and parents alike. However, such practice may also come with harmful effects such as missing out on sleep. Is getting enough sleep as important as all other healthy habits? Yes!

According to previous research on the significance of sleep, it is needed for proper healing of the body as well as many of the other functions. A disturbed sleeping pattern may not only make you cranky and lazy but may also contribute to the deterioration of health in the future.

In fact, getting enough sleep has more benefits than you think. For example, a new study indicates that getting enough sleep may also help you in your learning! Early on, it was only known that sleeping can help consolidate the information acquired while a person is awake.

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland highlights that humans also have the ability to learn new information during slow-wave or what is also known as deep sleep. The findings of the research are published in the journal Current Biology.

Read the research here.

What Does the Research Show?

Previously, most of the research on sleeping and learning was only on how getting enough of sleep can help in remembering the information better. In the recent study, the researchers were mainly concerned with answering a common question – If sleep can help consolidate the acquired information, why cannot a person learn and form a memory while sleeping?

For the purpose of studying the activity of brain waves, the team used electroencephalograms (EEGs)on forty-one healthy females and males. This was done while the participants were asleep as well as when they were given a memory test.

During their nap times, the participants were also asked to wear headphones which played recordings of things like verbal word pairs. Each of these pairs was made up of a common word and a made-up, nonexistent word.

For example, the researchers paired the word ‘house’ with a made-up word ‘tofer’. After the nap times were over, each participant had to solve a test based on their ‘sleep-formed’ memory.

In the test, there were different samples of made-up words. The participants had to tell whether the object associated with each of such words would fit inside a shoe word or not.

After the tests, it was noted that the acoustic presentation of the second word of a pair during sleep repeatedly hit an ongoing slow-wave peak lead to the better pairing of made-up words by the participants.

What Were the Results?

Earlier research on sleeping and learning showed that deep sleep or slow wave sleep plays a big role in the consolidation of information and memories. In this study, it was equally important. The researchers found that the participants could figure out the connection between made-up words and actual words under two conditions.

The participants were able to classify if there was the constant repetition of the word pair or the acoustic presentation of the second word had to coincide with an active phase of slow-wave sleep.

So far, this is an interesting and new finding. Further research in the matter may even lead to proper methods to learn more during sleep time in the future.

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Hilary Jensen

Hilary is a Literature graduate with expertise in Creative Writing. Her writing interests are mental health, ethics, and news reporting. You will find her work associated with relevant research and references that shows her passion for delivering authentic information to readers.


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