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Thread: Sleep/ unconscious learning

  1. #1 Sleep/ unconscious learning 
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    I have lately been curious, due to my lack of time to study the things of my interests, I have been trying to fall asleep to multiple lectures and informational clips, however I am noticing no effect. I lack even basic knowledge of how the neurological functions of memory work, and have zero knowledge of how the brain operates under all stages of sleep. I would be grateful for any informative replies regarding trying to teach the unconscious mind something, and activate it when you are conscious. ( Due to my lack of knowledge for the things regarding this question It would be extremely helpful to explain things in a near laymen s format.


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    The only thing I've heard of, and tried successfully with my students, is reinforcing learning of things like times tables or vocab lists by saying them out loud just before turning out the light and going to sleep.

    I suspect that you need to sort out what you want to learn, and most need to reinforce, into simple elements that can be spoken aloud. What I'm getting at, is that you probably can't learn slabs of text or complex ideas this way. What you can do is make general learning easier. Reading or listening to material on a topic is much more valuable when there is never the least hesitation when certain words or expressions or equations are mentioned. The less often your brain hesitates for such moments, the more smoothly your learning will go. The more competent you will feel.

    I don't know what you're studying, but you could write a list of definitions or of equations or of members of a species or some such basic facts you need and say half a dozen or 10 of them out loud before going to sleep. Do one set of 6 or 10 for a week. Then move onto another set. Then a third and fourth week.

    Being a grumpy old nag, I'll raise something here. Get. Enough. Sleep. Brain work is hard work - give it some good R&R every day.

    Far too many people wear themselves out studying far into the night. They'd do much better getting in a good 8 hours - every night of the week - and studying much more effectively for fewer hours when they're awake. If you find yourself waking early because of this, that would be a very good time to stick in the earplugs and listen to those lectures while you're doing breakfast-ish things - much more effective than at the end of a day when you're probably too tired anyway.


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    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    Wow, thank you very much for the helpful input! You seem to have nice general outline of good habits. I have another curiosity which is generally related to the self studying of the sciences. Could I be studying to many things? I have very little free time with my constant school upkeep, however I am interested in so many fields. Do you think that studying extra topics Not closely related to my school topics influence my capabilities to memorize things, in a good, or bad way?
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    Just to share a little of my own experience.

    I've been listening to audio tapes while working in-front of a desktop computer just yesterday, and I have to say that the (memory) retention of the material spoken on the audio tapes aren't as good as I would like; not that I was hoping that they would (just trying to drown out distractions by listening to some preferred "background noise") I do vaguely remember some basic information and a few details from those tapes (as would most of us who are engaged in a conversation while doing something else), but I am unable to recall specific details and any of the content that requires some analysis on the listener's part.

    I understand that my experience doesn't exactly fit the bill of "learning while we sleep", but I figured I share a little on something similar.
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    Do you think that studying extra topics Not closely related to my school topics influence my capabilities to memorize things, in a good, or bad way?
    I wouldn't know. If you came to me for tuition I'd want to see how well you were doing. Not just in getting the homework done and success or lack of it on tests, but whether your results and your progress were good value for the time and effort you're putting in. Only then would I look at your extra-curricular activities to see if they help or hinder.

    When I look at these knowledge-based activities, I'd want to know how you chose the topics. If you're looking to give yourself a headstart on next year's subject matter, I'd be inclined to suggest winding right back to core skills and knowledge and complete mastery of those. If you were a different kind of student, I might suggest staying right away from skills and specific knowledge so that you can get a good overview of a topic. The kind of student who finishes up not being able to see the forest for the trees will do much better when they start out with a map of the forest. otoh, if you're looking at anything and everything that catches your fancy, I might have a look at whether you're needlessly stressing yourself, or whether these additional topics seem to be a worthwhile broadening of your knowledge.

    But .... I wouldn't stick just to the knowledge based activities. I'd also want to know how much time and focus you're putting in to other activities like music or sport or drama or hobbies or chess or whatever. Sometimes the very best thing you can do for your learning is to get fully absorbed in something else entirely. Seeing as you're a student, I'd say keeping up with discovering or developing other interests is really important. Getting out of the house, away from books and computers and electronics generally, can do you the world of good.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    There is research conducted decades ago - and which I cannot locate - showing that we have better retention of material studied just before going to sleep. That was one leg of the tripod that let me pass exams with ease.
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    Thanks everyone fr the input! Adelady I usually only have time for about 2-3 hours of non homework/ school related focus, although I am just mainly worried that even though i am managing my time and skills well,
    I am giving my brain to many topics/ thoughts, which instead of strengthening my school focus, would weaken my ability to comprehend more in the mark related topics because of my high amounts of alternative focuses. ( Btw I was hoping to self study some programming, Html, electrical engineering, and just general cosmology/ astrophysics). And yea john usually i find it helps, but lately i've been completely consciously blacked out the next day as to what i did before i slept.
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    lately i've been completely consciously blacked out the next day as to what i did before i slept.
    So give it a rest for a couple of weeks. Read a novel or something if you're like me and have a 'need to read' before sleeping.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    I find a good way to remember is sit alone in a quiet place with a blank paper, usually a large sketch pad and try to turn what I remember into concept maps. It forces me to group and link things together and identify where I don't understand something. Explain things out loud helps as well, even if to an uninterested spouse or my large silver Manx companion. The idea is to manipulate what's you're trying to learn in several different ways. I usually spend a solid half an hour reviewing notes before bed time.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    There is research conducted decades ago - and which I cannot locate - showing that we have better retention of material studied just before going to sleep. That was one leg of the tripod that let me pass exams with ease.
    HEY! You just gonna throw that out there and not tell me what the other two legs were?! As they say in frat houses everywhere, "Don't leave me hangin, bro!"
    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

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  12. #11  
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    Ah yes, it works every time. Bait the hoook, cast it and just wait. There is always a bite.

    The three legs to passing exams with ease were - study before going to sleep; take extensive lecture notes rephrased in my own words (no need to ever look at them again; be really smart.

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    *nibble-nibble*
    "The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is... doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting sh*t dead wrong."

    Take two of these and call me in the morning
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    I am not aware of any effective means of transferring knowledge while asleep.

    I went to a keynote lecture on sleep last Monday at a conference. One thing the lecturer mentioned is that interfering with sleep can hurt learning.

    So I would try to get adequate sleep, and not do things that are likely to impair sleep because of an effort to find an easy way to learn without any supporting evidence that such a method works.
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    Agreed, sleep learning has been tried and is a wash out. At least with our current state of med/psych knowledge, you have to be conscious inorder to learn.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sealeaf View Post
    Agreed, sleep learning has been tried and is a wash out. At least with our current state of med/psych knowledge, you have to be conscious inorder to learn.
    I wonder if they tested people who dream about the subject they are studying. I know if I study hard, before bedtime, I'll often wake the middle of the night coming off a dream with better understanding--I'll write it down and if it was work related share with someone else as soon as possible. Dreaming about a subject almost always mean getting an A on test and often coming up with new solutions to novel problems. This might be why studying just prior to sleep is found effective--the idea that it primes the sleeper to continue to think about the subject.
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    Quote Originally Posted by xXplosionZz View Post
    Thanks everyone fr the input! Adelady I usually only have time for about 2-3 hours of non homework/ school related focus, although I am just mainly worried that even though i am managing my time and skills well,
    I am giving my brain to many topics/ thoughts, which instead of strengthening my school focus, would weaken my ability to comprehend more in the mark related topics because of my high amounts of alternative focuses. ( BTW I was hoping to self study some programming, HTML, electrical engineering, and just general cosmology/ astrophysics). And yea john usually i find it helps, but lately I've been completely consciously blacked out the next day as to what i did before i slept.
    I think I can help with this question. As long as you are able to complete all started tasks or projects, you are doing fine. If you find yourself getting distracted and moving on to other things before completing started tasks and projects, you are stretching yourself a bit thin, or you might have a mild ADHD problem which needs a medical solution.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    I am not aware of any effective means of transferring knowledge while asleep.

    I went to a keynote lecture on sleep last Monday at a conference. One thing the lecturer mentioned is that interfering with sleep can hurt learning.

    So I would try to get adequate sleep, and not do things that are likely to impair sleep because of an effort to find an easy way to learn without any supporting evidence that such a method works.
    But what constitutes interfering with sleep? Have you ever been completely stumped by a problem that had an urgent need for a solution? You find yourself reviewing it before falling asleep, then you wake up in the morning feeling like you had a very good nights sleep and you also have a solution to the problem.

    That's a very good example that your unconscious mind continued to work on a problem the conscious mind was stumped over.
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  19. #18  
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    you wake up in the morning feeling like you had a very good nights sleep and you also have a solution to the problem.
    And that's why you should give your brain the chance to do its own thing. Get a good nights sleep every night and your thinking and learning during the day will be more effective. At the end of each day, your regular sleep will give your brain a chance to consolidate learning - which may result in you now having the solution to a problem that was troubling you.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by arKane View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by dedo View Post
    I am not aware of any effective means of transferring knowledge while asleep.

    I went to a keynote lecture on sleep last Monday at a conference. One thing the lecturer mentioned is that interfering with sleep can hurt learning.

    So I would try to get adequate sleep, and not do things that are likely to impair sleep because of an effort to find an easy way to learn without any supporting evidence that such a method works.
    But what constitutes interfering with sleep? Have you ever been completely stumped by a problem that had an urgent need for a solution? You find yourself reviewing it before falling asleep, then you wake up in the morning feeling like you had a very good nights sleep and you also have a solution to the problem.

    That's a very good example that your unconscious mind continued to work on a problem the conscious mind was stumped over.
    For sure the unconscious mind works while we are asleep. What you mention is part of creativity.

    I am reading a short book now by a guy named Altucher. ("I was blind and now I see") He has a few things to say about creativity including: get a good night's sleep and write down ideas. Some people call that "journaling". So if you sleep on something and are ready to write down new ideas you can enhance your creativity.

    I have not reviewed all the things that inhibit sleep. Most people are familiar with the obvious ones: caffeine, light in the room, alcohol, etc.

    Interestingly, there are different levels of awareness during sleep, including drug induced sleep. You can be asleep enough to follow a command and not remember following it in a drug induced sleep. So nonresponsiveness, amnesia, and ability to react do not always go together.

    So you are right, problem solving probably also occurs during sleep.
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  21. #20 Revised idea.... 
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    Thanks for all this again guys! Ive just decided to drop the possibility that i can learn while sleeping, as my recent experiments have provided me with nothing more than cranky mornings.... Although Now I am curious about multiple sense stimulative learning( I dont know how to correctly word it). However what I mean is that I am curious to see if listening to say... a programming lecture while typing an essay or reading a post non related to the alternate subject... Am I still absorbing some, if any, information from both of my senses being directly stimulated, however on different Topics?
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  22. #21  
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    Absolutely not. There's been a lot of research on multi-tasking recently and learning is not something that works with multi-tasking.

    The "multi" just means divided attention, which means neither learning task is as efficient or effective as it would be otherwise. A lot of the research has focused on how phone, text and other conversations affect drivers. The unequivocal results are that there is no mode of conversation or other task that divides attention that doesn't result in a reduction of driver effectiveness. Other research has looked at people reading, and 'keeping an eye on' computers and other electronic equipment at the same time. All of it shows that information is either skipped entirely, mixed up or incomplete, or retained very poorly in such circumstances.

    Multi-tasking works best, if at all, where one or both of the tasks is a well-known routine. Whistling while you work - a familiar tune on a non-demanding task is a good example. As is someone who is a practised cook preparing a familiar recipe while talking on the phone or or to family or friends in the room. Put a beginner cook to work on the same recipe and see how well your conversational interruptions or distractions are received. Put an experienced cook/mechanic in an unfamiliar kitchen/workshop and see how they hesitate and get confused or distracted as normally smooth operations stop and start while they find needed tools not conveniently at hand.

    If you need to learn something, learn it. It will happen faster and smoother if you're not distracted. If you have to do homework or other assignment on a topic, do it as smoothly and fluently as you can. Which means don't distract yourself by adding in an unrelated task. These are good study habits and they'll allow you to learn more, faster, and get onto another task more promptly if you use the same good work habits for everything.
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    Ahh I see, looks like im stuck with the ol' study that, then this technique. I just wish i could increase efficiency without sacrificing more time....

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
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    i am also having a trouble..seeing this post i hope i could find out a solution.while studying at day time my focus is not as strong as at night..i used to study from 12 at night to 6 in the morning during my exams.although i have cleared my exams and i have got admission in MBBS..but could u help me to improve my learning skills.as medical studies seems more tiresome
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  25. #24  
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    Why did sleep evolve? To learn....I think not. However it could be on the way. Who knows? Meanwhile, if you can't then you can't. Is there an advantage to be able to learn while asleep? Possibly. If through natural selection it evolves then score one for humanity.

    Is sleep a task? If so then an inability to learn while sleeping makes some sense, perhaps a clue to why multi-tasking is tough on us. If sleeping is a task and it is at our subconscious level then maybe our inattentiveness when attempting to multi task is related to it. I mean I feel as if I'm most vulnerable to harm from an outside agency when I'm asleep so whatever attentiveness I retain during that time I can't afford to have disturbed.

    IOW the subconscious may be too focused on survival during sleep than to bother learning. Perhaps because of this the subconscious retains the single focus mode attribute throughout the awake period of the day making multi tasking difficult.
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