A study conducted at the universities of Zurich and Fribourg has shown that German-speaking students are better at remembering the meaning of newly learned Dutch words when they hear the words again in their sleep.
“Our method is easy to use in daily life and can be adopted by anyone,” said study director and biopsychologist Bjorn Rasch. However, the results were obtained in strictly controlled laboratory conditions. It remains to be seen whether they can be successfully transferred to everyday situations.
In their trial, Thomas Schreiner and Rasch asked 60 volunteers to learn pairs of Dutch and German words at 10 in the evening. Half of the volunteers then went to bed. While they slept, some of the Dutch words they had learned before going to bed were played back quietly. The remaining volunteers stayed awake to listen to the Dutch words on the playback.
The scientists awoke the sleeping volunteers at two in the morning, then tested everyone’s knowledge of the new words a little later. The group that had been asleep were better at remembering the German translations of the Dutch words they had heard in their sleep. The volunteers who had remained awake were unable to remember words they had heard on the playback any better than those they had not.