Can You Learn A Language In Your Sleep?
Have you ever used the phrase “I could do that in my sleep!”? If not, it typically means that something is so easy that you could do it asleep. But what if you actually could do it in your sleep?
As the world continues to evolve, we all strive to look for new ways to learn things, or even new ways to cut corners. So when the topic of “Can you learn a new language in your sleep?” comes up, it’s bound to raise an eyebrow or two.
Learning a new language for adults can be particularly challenging and time consuming, so of course we want to know if there’s a quicker way to learn. And what’s a quicker way to learn a new skill than in your sleep?
Can you learn a language in your sleep?
For all the sleepyheads out there, it’s good news! You can in fact learn a new language in your sleep.
But to actually answer the question “can you learn a language in your sleep?” it’s not actually as black and white as yes or no.
Having explored numerous language and sleep studies (which we will discuss below), we, along with many others, have discovered that the answer to this question can be yes. But it comes with a variety of caveats to make that yes, a yes.
Some obvious conclusions from the studies include needing to study the language during the day prior to your sleep and having a full night’s sleep, with many also just simply noting the benefit of sleep on learning and information retention.
Language and Sleep Studies
There are various studies that have been conducted into the correlation between sleep and learning a language, all with various theories, hypotheses and outcomes.
One of the main studies that asks a similar question to ours, is Bjorn Rasch’s “Sleep and Language Learning” academic paper. The Swiss bio-psychologist explored the correlation between sleep and retaining language related information by studying a group of 60 German students and assessing their ability to learn 60 Dutch phrases.
Beginning at 10pm, one group was soon asked to go to sleep, while the others stayed awake. Once it was confirmed that the first group were in rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep, the 60 words were played back to them. The ‘awake group’ also had the words played to them. Both groups were then tested four hours later at 2am. The team found that the ‘sleeping group’ performed significantly better.
By the psychologists’ own admission, the research doesn’t show that language acquisition is possible during sleep, but rather that listening to language tapes in your sleep helps consolidate memories.
However, Rasch continued his studies and further research allowed him to conclude that you can’t learn a new language in your sleep, but sleep definitely contributes to the success of learning a language. He concludes it with the below phrase:
“During sleep, the conscious processing of external and internal information is attenuated, reducing the ability of acquiring new information. Thus, sleep provides an ideal window of opportunity to reprocess, stabilise, and integrate already acquired information into long-term memory networks!
A further study in 2019 by Marc Zust and others, concluded that people were able form word-associations in their sleep if they were played previously recorded verbal recordings. However, the researchers stressed that this was not a shortcut to learning a new language, as learning complexities such as grammar were just not possible during slumber.
This further solidifies the notion that it is possible to enhance your learning of a language during your sleep through the likes of listening to recordings prior or during sleep, but it requires further study and time to really learn the language.
How to Learn a Language in Your Sleep
Although the above studies largely focus on how sleep affects learning a language, with most concluding that sleep itself won’t help you learn a language, we wanted to explore what you could do to enhance your learning.
Firstly, if you fancy learning a language whilst awake, then we here at Global Language Services have created a variety of language learning resources to help you out:
- Tips for Learning a Language as an Adult
- Tricks for Better Pronunciation
- The Best Way to Learn a Language
- Best Language Learning Apps
But, if you’re tempted by the unconscious learning style or fancy putting as many hours as possible into learning a language, you can do the following (in no particular order) to help you with learning a language in your sleep:
Whilst you practise your new language, record yourself saying key phrases or having a conversation. Once you have settled down for the night, you should then play your recordings back as you sleep to help you absorb the information as you enter into your REM cycle.
No Tech Before Bed:
Before you settle down and get cosy for bed, ensure that you have put your phone away for at least 30 minutes. This time without your phone prior to sleep will ensure you have a deeper, better sleep; increasing the likelihood of retaining language information!
The key to the above tip being successful, is to play them repeatedly. Just playing your 3 minute recording one time, for one night won’t be effective. But, for 2-3 hours every night, you should replay your recording!
Once you wake up, instead of checking your phone and scrolling socials, test yourself! Play back your recording and try to talk along to it to see how much of the new language you absorbed in your sleep!
How does sleep improve our ability to learn?
Sleep is a key player in ensuring our bodies function optimally. From everything from brain functionality to our immune systems, getting a good night’s sleep is essential. But how does it impact our ability to learn?
Whilst we sleep our brain consolidates that which we have learned during the day and transforms short term memory into long term memory. So whether you’re learning a new language or trying out a new hobby, a good night’s sleep is essential in improving your learning.
It can be said that learning a new language in your sleep is certainly possible, but not all is what it seems.
After exploring some academia and other resources, we (along with many others) have come to the same conclusion. If you are learning a new language a good night’s sleep is almost guaranteed to help you learn and consolidate your knowledge, but will not be solely responsible for you learning a language if you play some classic Rosetta Stone tapes during your 8 hours.
You must still put in the time and effort that learning a language requires, from creating language learning plans to signing up to some of the best apps. If you put in a little effort to follow our steps above, you can certainly aid your learning during your sleep.