Study tip: Study while you sleep

If you’re trying to learn a second language, AND love sleeping – we have great news for you!

Every person dreams (pun intended) on picking up a second language with ease and in a short amount of time.

We all know by now that it does requires good old hard work to achieve that goal. But what if we said you could maximise your study efforts while you sleep?

According to research by the Universities of Zurich and Fribourg:

Listening to recordings of previously learned words while you sleep could actually help you remember them.”

Published in the Cerebral Cortex Oxford Journal, the study asked a group of 60 German-speaking participants to learn pairs of words in Dutch. Half went to sleep as recordings of the words were played on a low volume, while the second half stayed awake during the recorded playback.

Can you guess which group performed significantly better when tested just hours later? You got it – the sleepers!

The researchers suggest that you can successfully activate words that you have learned before you go to sleep, and facilitate later recall of foreign vocabulary.


But there’s a catch…

You can’t just have your recording set on replay the whole night and expect a miracle. You have to time it right so that the recording is playing during non-rapid eye movement sleep (NonREM).

There are four stages of sleep, and the first three last around 90 minutes before you go into the last stage which is when you dream (REM). You will want to play your vocabulary recording in that first 90 minute window for maximum effect.

So for example, if you go to bed at 9pm, set a timer to stop playing the recording around 10:30pm.


Now that you’re excited to sleep tonight (for more than one reason), we hear you asking, ‘Where do I find this magic vocabulary recording?’.

The internet is home to almost anything you could ever want, but keep in mind that this learning hack only works for words you’ve previously learned, so it may not be the source for your vocabulary recording.

Our study tip within a study tip would be to keep a separate vocabulary note book to your regular study notes, either grouped into weeks or months, and at the end of that period record yourself pronouncing the words in a clear, repetitive manner.

There you have it – studying while you sleep – dreams really do come true!

If you’re up to the challenge, give it a try and let us know how you go in the comments below.


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