Friday, April 23, 2010

Learning in your sleep, dreaming with a purpose

A new study is shedding light on one of sleeps biggest mysteries: why we dream. While it’s been known for some time that dreaming helps memory function, findings published Thursday in Current Biology indicate we continue to learn as we dream.

Subjects in the study spent an hour navigating navigated a complex 3D maze and then took a 90 minute break.

Half the volunteers napped during that period, while the others stayed awake.

When the break ended participants were asked to solve the same maze as quickly as possible.

Those who stayed awake the entire time had a drop in performance compared to previously. The nappers who did not dream only modestly improved.

The four people who reported dreaming about the maze turned in an impressive performance, completing it in half their previous time. Matched up against the group that didn’t nap, the dreamers’ scores were 10 times better.

Find out the details of their dream in this New York Times article.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains the physiological processes of learning while dreaming in the video below.

1 comment:

Elliander said...

Very interesting. Adds credibility to the idea that the mountain of home work schools dump on kids will only have the opposite effect as intended by depriving them of sleep.

I remember when I was home schooled I would only do an hour of work twice a week for some subjects and 3 times a week for others, and at off times either playing mentally stimulating games such as chess or walking through a forest to relax and getting 10 hours of sleep a night. In one month I learned an entire semester worth of knowledge. Whereas the public school students doing busy work and mountains of home work didn't even retain that much knowledge at the end of the school year.

When I went back to public schools my performance declined and I actually started to forget some things. I was tired all the time, falling asleep in class. Unable to concentrate, and couldn't really enjoy things I normally considered fun. I had no time for anything really. It was just work work work. All the time. I went from Honor roll to barely passing.

It's obvious to me: Less work hours, varied subjects. Combined with physical activity and various forms of mental stimulation provides substantially more benefit than loading a child's head with busy work. People should work smarter, not harder. People need sleep.

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