Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Learning While You Sleep Might Be Possible After All

Sleeping Brain
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to learn Japanese.

Linguists often say that the best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it, and that’s what I did. For a while, I put post-it notes on items with their Japanese names on them, watched anime with the subtitles off and even fell asleep to kawaii Japanese podcasts whispering in my ear.

Learn by osmosis, right? Maybe even as I sleep something will stick, I thought.

It sounds utterly nonsensical — learn while you’re unconscious?! — but the idea of sleep learning has thrived for centuries. Eerily described in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley in the 1930s, sleep was once thought to be a subliminal state similar to hypnosis, in which the person is susceptible to messages from the outside world.

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