Does Hypnopedia really work and what can you learn in your sleep?

By Vladimir Marchenko

  1. What is hypnopedia?
  2. Sleep-learning — from skepticism to cautious conclusions
  3. What happens to the brain during sleep
  4. Not learning, but completion of learning
  5. Enhancing mental health through sleep
  6. Some Hypnopedia app Bonuses

What is hypnopedia?

The ancient Greek word "hypnopedia" literally translates as "learning during sleep”. This is a potential technique for transmitting knowledge or messages during the learner's natural sleep. Earlier, the reading was carried out directly by a teacher or a priest, later the experiments were conducted with recorded voices. After the first electroencephalographs appeared about 100 years ago, there were attempts to determine the optimal phase (stage) of sleep for perception. As technology and knowledge about sleep improved, researchers have often come to conflicting conclusions.

One of the first psychophones. A set of phrases recorded in advance were switched on by a timer

Experiments in this area were carried out by the ancient Egyptian priests, who believed that during sleep one discovers world mysteries. Yogis of India and Buddhists also tried to interact with the mind of sleeping people. Among the Greeks, the god Hypnos was considered one of the most powerful, and his son Morpheus used to lull to sleep (and this could be used, according to the testers of those times). R. Gaine, A. Mori and Z. Freud also admitted the possibility of perceiving external signals and their subsequent visualization at the right moment of sleep. The next active wave occurred in the 20s of XX century. During those years, there were experiments with psychophones and recording of voice formulations for their further reproduction. The after-experiment excitement was huge, but it was not possible to achieve stable results. With the advent of electroencephalography, it also became clear that the person often woke up right when messages were played at night and therefore remembered them so well and repeated them in the morning.

Sleep-learning — from skepticism to cautious conclusions

Since the 1930s the attitude of the scientific world and ordinary people to the possibilities of hypnopedia has repeatedly changed. On the one hand, O. Huxley created a dystopia "Brave New World", in which the sleep-learning mechanism was considered one of the foundations of society and helped to construct ideal personalities in accordance with the caste system. The possibility of such "programming" was confirmed by a number of scientists of that time from different countries.

However, by the end of the 1950s, the enthusiasm of scientists had turned into a state of "swing" and in some countries (for example, in the USSR and the USA) the probability of memorizing information obtained in a conditionally unconscious state ranged from scientifically proven and working to ridicule at the level of pseudoscience. Simultaneously, in two science fiction novels by R. Heinlein "Starship Troopers" and D. Keyes "Flowers for Algernon" (both 1959), hypnopedia was described as a quite real thing.

sleep learning hypnopedia

Period, which later turned out to be a comma, was put by the research of C. Simon and W. Emmons “Learning during sleep?” (1956). It asserted the alleged impossibility of learning during sleep. The subjects could not reproduce the material heard at night, except for those episodes when the alpha rhythm was activated along the way with the reading. However, this stood for actual awakening and could not be interpreted as sleep-learning. After that, interest in the topic faded for many years and serious experiments were hardly carried out.

Tentative attempts to go back to research have been taking place since the early 2010s. During that period, a number of publications appeared confirming the ability and selective efficiency of information perception during sleep. One of the most famous is “Humans can learn new information during sleep” (A. Arzi, L. Shedlesky, M. Ben-Shaul and others, 2012). It provides the evidence that people can enhance previously acquired knowledge during sleep. The basis of the experiment was the reaction to odors and relevant associations.

During the testing by psychologists from Illinois (USA, 2013), subjects were asked to move an object on a PC screen. Along the way, some of them were given an individual sound signal. Then all the subjects went to bed. Some rested in silence, and the other group, who were given a soundtrack, heard the same sounds while they slept. The next morning everyone was asked to perform the task again and those who heard the sounds at night did better in the end. Quite a lot of similar experiments have been carried out and the results generally recognize the possibility of perceiving a certain amount of data coming from outside.

What happens to the brain during sleep

Despite the common opinion, the brain is not "turned off" at night. It progressively goes through two phases of sleep - slow and fast, where in the slow phase there are 4 more stages, ranging from nap to deep sleep. Some of its sections continue to function and actively process the information received the day before. And often this happens even more strongly than during the waking period. There is also memory consolidation, which can be explained as the transfer of data from short-term storage to long-term storage, "archiving" of information and skills necessary and useful to a person.

what happens in brain while you sleep

As for the perception of information in one’s sleep, simplified and in accordance with the latest scientific data, it looks like this:

  • brain can perceive specific data in a certain phase of sleep;
  • it does not sleep all at once, but leaves "watchdog" areas that react to signals from the outside world;
  • using them, you can carefully "write down" a small amount of information at the subconscious level (literally a few sentences, if we are talking about text);
  • it is desirable if the knowledge is familiar and repetitive, in this case the strengthening effect will increase.

“Downloading” a large amount of information (for example, learning a completely unfamiliar foreign language from scratch) or unfamiliar messages (all information about an academic subject to a student who has not attended a single class) is pointless. Firstly, one night will definitely not be enough, and the user will most likely just wake up at some point. Secondly, the brain must perceive at least part of the information during wakefulness. Moreover, the degree of perception is individual for everyone, as well as the sensitivity to external stimuli during the night's rest.

Not learning, but completion of learning

A hands-on approach to sleep-learning suggested two options:

  1. Submitting absolutely unknown information during sleep with a morning check on the success of assimilation, or as a preparatory stage for daytime training.
  2. Completion of learning, that is, consolidation of previously learned text, musical, visual, material or smells. In this case, hypnopedia does not replace, but only supplements the standard daytime meaningful ways of perception (reading, listening, inhaling).

It is the second approach that seems to be the most promising for people who do not suffer from sleep or mental disorders, who have sufficient motivation to regularly complete training tasks. Back in the 60s, it was discovered that people who received information in a conditionally unconscious state had dreams related to the topic. For example, students who studied English in their sleep talked with other people in this language, and those who studied Chinese saw pagodas and other specific cultural objects. The term "hypnopaedic sleep" even appeared, denoting the special visions of some individuals.

Then it became clear that perception is limited by a certain amount of information, which could be broadened with regular listening.

Enhancing mental health through sleep

Since short and repetitive phrases are best absorbed being unconscious, affirmations (short motivational statements) are ideal for this case. Their positive effect lies not so much in learning new things as in consolidating useful and inspiring messages on a subconscious level. This works especially well if affirmations are also listened to during the day or just before falling asleep. In the long term and with regular repetition, some psychophysiological indicators and mental health are strengthened.

sleep learning collage

All previous experience and best practices were summarized when creating the Hypnopedia application. When developing the algorithm, its authors used both conclusions from scientific publications and their own experiments using specialized equipment. As a result, it was possible to identify the optimal sleep intervals for the delivery of affirmations, so that the user does not wake up and his sleep is not disturbed. Recordings were made by professional announcers with pleasant voices.

However, in addition to that, the developers supplemented the app with sounds and melodies for falling asleep, which can be combined at will (several hundred different combinations are available). There is also a "smart" alarm clock with the haptic alarm function, which picks the optimal time to wake up at the selected interval. The result is a sleep tracking complex available for download in the AppStore.

Ссылка App Store

Thus, it is somehow possible to influence one's subconsciousness during sleep. Unfortunately, we are not talking about absorbing large amounts of new information, but rather about consolidating already known information. However, even that is sufficient when using sleep time, which for most people seems useless and at the same time takes up almost a third of our lives.

Some Hypnopedia app Bonuses

1.How do I know that while I am asleep ads or something like that will not be played?

All affirmations are recorded in advance, which excludes the possibility of putting “unnecessary” knowledge into users’ subconscious without their knowledge. You can listen to affirmations at any time and make sure they only contain useful messages.

2. Should one listen to affirmations during the day?

Preferably, to enhance the effect. In the latest version of our application, playback occurs immediately before going to bed (not counting the switching on during sleep). In addition, the affirmations can be turned on in the player at any time during the day, without restrictions.

3. Can Hypnopedia be used by people with sleep disorders?

Sleep problems need to be addressed anyway. The use of Hypnopedia in general has no contraindications and is suitable for a wide audience. With individual settings, you can reduce the volume of recorded voices or sleep sounds, turn off or combine functions, and at the same time adhere to a sleeping schedule, sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow, do not abuse alcohol and junk food before going to bed, etc.

Hypnopedia Mental health Sleep Memory