Could your dreams help you hack your learning?
Two factors are colliding lately to help underscore this possibility.
First of all, science - not just conventional wisdom -- says that dedicating one's self to studying before a nap is a more effective use of learning than afterwards. The brain works hard in its semi-conscious state to retain information.
Secondly, a team of scientists at the MIT Media Lab is currently working on a device that's designed to customize the content of study participants' dreams. A not-so-simple bedtime hack, if you will.
MIT's sleep study subjects wear a device on their wrists called a Dormio. This device repeats out loud the prospective dream topic that the user is meant to consider as they fall into sleep. Once the wearer's state of hypnogogia (that ephemeral transition between wakefulness and sleep) is achieved, the Dormio monitors his or her sleeping patterns.
A full two thirds of the subjects reported dreaming about the very subject prompted and promoted by the Dormio. So, if the Dormio repeated the phrase, say, "Oompa Loompas" out loud, device wearer-sleepers would likely commence dreaming of chocolate factories and little orange men.
Speaking of conjuring up dreams, scary movie marathons, as everyone knows, are a distinct no-no right before bed - unless one purposefully wants to dream of Freddie Krueger chasing him or her down a long, dark alley up to the sharp edge of the abyss. While naked. (Or is that just me?)
Where the Dormio picks up this pre-slumber, dream-inducing vibe is in its bearer-created, pre-determined topic prompting. Scientists can schedule particular subjects for dream scenarios into the device, not unlike the constant barrage of sitting through horror movies.
The Dormio, not the screen, spits out auditory, not audiovisual, prompts. It then, in turn, keeps tabs on wearers' heart rates, the position of their fingers, and other cues, all in an effort to track sleeping patterns.
Implications and Ethical Considerations
Knowledge that manipulation of dreams is a distinct possibility leads the imagination to all sorts of scenarios -- not all of them good. Ethical considerations must be taken into account as technology like the Dormio seeps more and more into our lives. Deep diving into this necessity is beyond the scope of this website.
So let's consider what a good bedtime hack may bring about.
Controlling dreams does have the capacity to help heal traumas and control unhealthy behavior.
Need a creativity boost? Hypnogogia to the rescue. Surrealist Salvador Dali referred to this state as “the slumber with a key.” The Spanish artist considered these fleeting moments to serve as creative inspiration for many of his imaginative paintings.
Expand your Breadth of Knowledge with this One Simple Bedtime Hack!
As a former teacher, I'm especially excited about the potential expanded learning and cognition (science of knowing) horizons in our, and our kids', futures.
As educators, we are taught to nurture our students' higher-level thinking skills. This is all well and good--in fact, critical thinking abilities are crying for a boost nowadays -- but a solid foundation in basic knowledge forms the foundation of an individual's capability of in-depth cognition.
And how do we internalize this knowledge? Probably through rote memorization. How much easier and more efficient could we make learning if it was enhanced by an electronic aid like the Dormio?
Hacking our dreams we can do now
Circling back to our initial premise, that studying before sleeping is better than afterwards, and marrying it to the future advantages promised by devices such as the Dormio:
Why can't we hack our sleep onset (hypnogogia) and dreams now?
There's no reason not to fashion a hack with the technology we currently have! And we don't have to do it like in the acclaimed movie Inception, where Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his compatriots use drugs and psychological profiles to trigger specific dreams in their targets.
Let's do this the easy way. No meds, no mental games, and no Dormios. At least not yet.
So how do we set out with this one simple bedtime hack?
While comfy in bed, try the following:
- If what you need to learn lends itself to an image, hold it in your mind and let it be the last thing in your mind before falling asleep.
- Alternately, if what you need to learn involves auditory content, record a concise verbal statement of what you want to dream about. Play the statement on repeat for several minutes. You'll find tons of recording apps for free or low cost on your phone!
A student of foreign languages could try playing, on repeat, a short dialog comprised of vocabulary she is trying to learn. She'll wake up much more confident in her second tongue, one of which, who knows, she may have even grown in her dreams!
Learning anatomy? Pull up the associated body area on your tablet, and slowly scan the associated text where it corresponds with the body part in question. Then close your eyes and visualize the screen in your mind's eye. Be prepared to ace the next day's pre-med exam.
Need to memorize Lincoln's Gettysburg Address? Record it, then play it back several times while you wait to drift to sleep. You may end up reciting it verbatim, and heck, even ending the Civil War, all in your dreams!
Don't confuse this kind of purposeful dreaming with the fashionable technique of lucid dreaming, in which you know full well you are dreaming, and you are conscientiously able to control and direct it. The premise of controlling your dream by "front loading" it, as happens with the auditory and visual cues I've described, does not rely on being able to control it while it is happening. We are trying, in contrast, to control the dream process before it occurs, and then letting it rip.
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I hope you try these simple, inexpensive techniques to manipulate the onset, if not also the content, of your dreams, and use them to your benefit! I'd love to hear how they work out for you.
Last update on 2021-04-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API