Wouldn't it be nice if you could put away all of those college textbooks and learn all of their material while snoozing?! It sounds crazy, but that is what a lot of companies are proposing. They call it sleep-assisted learning. In their advertisements, they say that by listening to their CD's while you sleep, you can learn to speak a new language, stop smoking, or even reduce stress.
One website, called Sleep-Learning-Guide.com, says that you can, "learn almost anything while sleeping." (the website can be viewed here) It also says that, "Sleep-learning can aid greatly in time-saving, in increased efficiency, and in improving general knowledge."
This idea sounds absolutely insane! Learning while sleeping! Because this idea seems so out of the ordinary, we must evaluate it with a few of the principles of scientific thinking.
First, we must look at the principle of Extraordinary Claims. This principle means that when we evaluate claims that seem to contradict what we already know, they must have persuasive evidence to support them. In the early investigations of sleep-assisted learning, there did seem to be some evidence to support it.
However, the first reports failed to rule out other explanations for sleep-assisted learning. This is where another principle of scientific thinking comes in. They failed to use the principle of Ruling Out Rival Hypothesis. One possible explanation for sleep-assisted learning is that the recordings may have awakened the listeners. When experimenters improved the experiments and used EEGs to make sure the subjects were sleeping, they found little evidence to support sleep-assisted learning.
So according to what researchers have found, sleep-assisted learning programs do not actually work the way they are supposed to. One may only learn from the recordings if they continually wake up while listening. This is a good example of how we need to learn to evaluate all scientific findings with the six principles of scientific thinking. And the next time someone asks you if you would like to learn while sleeping, you can just respond, "I'd rather be dreaming."
Picture taken from: