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Sleep-learning (also known as sleep-teaching, hypnopædia, or hypnopedia) is an attempt to convey information to a sleeping person, typically by playing a sound recording to them while they sleep. Research, however, has largely discredited the technique's effectiveness.[1][2]


In 1927 Alois Benjamin Saliger invented the Psycho-Phone for sleep learning: "It has been proven that natural sleep is identical with hypnotic sleep and that during natural sleep the unconscious mind is most receptive to suggestions."[3]

Since the electroencephalography studies by Charles W. Simon and William H. Emmons in 1956, learning by sleep has not been taken seriously. The researchers concluded that learning during sleep was "impractical and probably impossible." They reported that stimulus material presented during sleep was not recalled later when the subject awoke unless alpha wave activity occurred at the same time the stimulus material was given. Since alpha activity during sleep indicates the subject is about to awake, the researchers felt that any learning occurred in a waking state.[4][5]

In 2012 research from the Weizmann Institute of Science indicated that classical conditioning can occur during sleep by using odor recognition. "During sleep, humans can strengthen previously acquired memories, but whether they can acquire entirely new information remains unknown. The nonverbal nature of the olfactory sniff response, in which pleasant odors drive stronger sniffs and unpleasant odors drive weaker sniffs, allowed us to test learning in humans during sleep."[6][7]

In fiction[edit]

The idea of sleep-learning is found in influential science fiction and other literature.[8] The following examples are listed chronologically by publication or original air date, when known.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ackerman, Jennifer (2007). Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream. Houghton Mifflin Books. ISBN 0-618-18758-8.  p. 171 "But most scientist agree that learning during sleep--that is actively acquiring new knowledge--is probably impossible. Certainly, attempts to teach slumbering adult subjects vocabulary or foreign languages or lists of items has failed miserably."
  2. ^ Turkington, Carol (2003). 12 Steps to a Better Memory. Simon and Schuste. ISBN 0-7434-7575-5.  p. 9 "While it is popularly believed that a person can learn and remember while sleeping, in fact research has shown that learning does not take place while you are sound asleep...However, there is some evidence suggesting that you can learn while you are very drowsy, or even in a very light sleep. The material must be presented at just the right time; if you are not sleepy enough, the material will wake you up, and if you're too deeply asleep, the materials won't make an impression at all. In addition, complex material involving reasoning or understanding can't be learned while in a drowsy state."
  3. ^ "Psycho-Phone". The New Yorker. 1933. Retrieved 2010-11-18. "Well, sir, since 1927, Mr. Saliger has sold more than 2500 Psycho-phones ..." 
  4. ^ Fromm, Erika; Ronald E. Shor (1972). Hypnosis. Aldine/Atherton. ISBN 978-0-202-30856-2. 020230856.  p. 78 Referring to Charles W. Simon and William H. Emmons EEG, Consciousness, and Sleep, Science, 1956, 124, 1066-1069.
  5. ^ Kleitman, Nathaniel (1987). Sleep and Wakefulness. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-44073-7.  Page 125
  6. ^ Arzi, A.; Shedlesky, L.; Ben-Shaul, M.; Nasser, K.; Oksenberg, A.; Hairston, I. S.; Sobel, N. (2012). "Humans can learn new information during sleep". Nature Neuroscience 15 (10): 1460–1465. doi:10.1038/nn.3193. PMID 22922782.  edit
  7. ^ Amanda L. Chan (29 August 2012). "Sleep Learning May Be Possible: Study". Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  8. ^ Hypnopaedia -Sleep Learning