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Sleep-learning (also known as sleep-teaching or hypnopædia) attempts to convey information to a sleeping person, typically by playing a sound recording to them while they sleep.

This now-discredited technique was supposed to be moderately effective at making people remember direct passages or facts, word for word.[1][2] Since the Electroencephalography studies by Charles W. Simon and William H. Emmons in 1956, learning by sleep has not been taken seriously. The researchers concluded that learning during sleep was "impractical and probably impossible." They reported that stimulus material presented during sleep was not recalled later when the subject awoke unless alpha activity occurred at the same time the stimulus material was given. Since alpha activity during sleep indicates the subject is about to awake, the researchers felt that any learning occurred in a wake state.[3][4]

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  1. Ackerman, Jennifer (2007). Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream, Houghton Mifflin Books. p. 171 "But most scientist agree that learning during sleep--that is actively acquiring new knowledge--is probably impossible. Certainly, attempts to teach slumbering adult subjects vocabulary or foreign languages or lists of items has failed miserably."
  2. Turkington, Carol (2003). 12 Steps to a Better Memory, Simon and Schuste. p. 9 "While it is popularly believed that a person can learn and remember while sleeping, in fact research has shown that learning does not take place while you are sound asleep...However, there is some evidence suggesting that you can learn while you are very drowsy, or even in a very light sleep. The material must be presented at just the right time; if you are not sleepy enough, the material will wake you up, and if your too deeply asleep, the materials won't make an impression at all. In addition, complex material involving reasoning or understanding can't be learned while in a drowsy state."
  3. Fromm, Erika; Ronald E. Shor (1972). Hypnosis, Aldine/Atherton. 020230856. p. 78 Referring to Charles W. Simon and William H. Emmons EEG, Consciousness, and Sleep, Science, 1956, 124, 1066-1069.
  4. Kleitman, Nathaniel (1987). Sleep and Wakefulness, University of Chicago Press. Page 125
  • Leshan, L. (1942). The breaking of a habit by suggestion during sleep. Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology, 37, 406-408.
  • Fox, B.H., & Robbin, J.S. (1952). The retention of material presented during sleep. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 43, 75-79.
  • Emmons W. H., Simon C. W. 1956). The non-recall of material presented during sleep. Am J Psychol. 69(1):76-81.

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