There is a belief that you can learn things by listening to them while sleeping, though there was no scientific evidence to such a claim until now. Researchers from Northwestern University have found that musicians that listen to known music while sleeping are able to play the tune better.
The researchers presented the participants with two artificially generated musical tunes, which they had to learn. Then they were allowed to take a 90-minute nap while listening to one of the tunes. When they again had to play the music, their performance of the melody they had heard while sleeping was much better than the other one.
This finding doesn’t exactly show that people learn while sleeping, but that ‘memory is strengthened for something you’ve already learned,’ says Paul J. Reber, co-author of the study. ‘Rather than learning something new in your sleep, we’re talking about enhancing an existing memory by re-activating information recently acquired.’
It remains to be seen how this can be applied not only to music but to other fields as well.
Antony, J.W., Gobel, E.W., O’Hare, J.K., Reber, P.J., & Paller, K.A. (2012). Cued Memory Reactivation During Sleep Influences Skill Learning Nature Neuroscience