May we develop skills in sleeping?

Today, sleeping is often regarded as waste of time. However, two centuries ago people slept ten hours a day on average. Researchers claim that sleeping is important for us to stay healthy, to think clearly, to be creative and productive and to remember things effectively.  People lacking sleep often feel unfocused, tired and irritated. As we sleep, our brain works, analyzing and sorting out information from our day activities.

But can we practice our learnt skills during sleep?  Recently, Dr.Daniel Erlacher at the University of Bern in Switzerland, has conducted an experiment to answer this question, according to the Harvard Business Review reports.  The human brain during the stage of “lucid dreaming” was subjected to the study. In this condition, a person understands that he is dreaming but he is able to manage his behavior.  The researcher asked participants of the experiment to imagine that they are doing specific physical exercises, for example running, and observed what parts of the brain were activated.  Dr. Erlacher has discovered that our brain activates the same regions of the brain when we are exercising when we are awake as and when we exercise in our thoughts during sleeping.  He assumes that people are able to acquire new skills or to develop existing ones in the “lucid dream” state.

In addition, the study has indicated that any actions carried out by examinees in this condition is extended in time. The participants of the experiment spent 50 percent more time than they needed to to carry out the same actions in wakefulness.  Try to understand why this happens.  It is known that subjective time passes at various paces for different people.  The time is stretched while a person acquires new information or skills because the new experience is processed more slowly in the brain and causes a perception that time seems longer.  Yet when a person sleeps, some processes in the brain are also slowed down, hence, as the researcher suggests, during sleep the brain also needs more time to process information.

Dr.Erlacher plans to develop this method for athletes to  improve their skills during sleeping to enhance a variety of techniques.  The researcher claims that many of them already practice this method successfully.

Obviously, the usage of sleep for self-improvement will be helpful  for many of us. Furthermore, as it follows from the experiment, our imaginary actions and thoughts experienced when we are sleeping influence the brain in a similar way to our actual real life experiences.  In this way, it also demonstrates that we should control our thoughts more carefully.


Svetlana Stroganova, Nikolai Shmelev

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