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Can You *Really* Study While You Sleep?

It’s that time of year again: finals season. While the days are getting shorter, they simultaneously feel much longer, with us students spending practically every waking moment studying, stressing, or both. Our social lives are more nonexistent than ever during finals, because there’s just too much to get done, and we reconsider why we even chose to go to college in the first place (or maybe that’s just me — whoops). But regardless of your workload and anxiety levels, we can all agree that there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done.

Plus, for those of us who are still sitting in lectures every day, trying to grasp as much knowledge as we can in order to pass our finals, it can be difficult to retain mountains of new information. Especially while our minds are preoccupied, thinking about deadlines and other classes. Not to mention, when my phone is right there, I’m gonna opt for checking Instagram instead of listening to my professor talk. It’s not easy to put all of our distractions at rest and just listen for an hour at a time.

Well, for those who love naps and hate listening to lectures, boy, do I have a life hack for you! I know it sounds ridiculous, but you can — and should — listen to your lectures while you’re sleeping. Simply recording your lectures, or listening to the ones your professor uploaded, and playing them back while you take a nap or sleep for the night is more beneficial than you might think; it can actually be an effective way to study without even knowing it.

Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

But don’t just take my word for it. Science actually shows that listening to your lectures while you’re sleeping actually works — as in, it’s not just recommended for those who want to use their professor’s speaking voice as ASMR. As much as it doesn’t seem like it, our brains work *very* hard while we’re sleeping; as we rest, our brains are busy fulfilling so many tasks we don’t even notice, like synthesizing memories, for one. And although it’s impossible to, for example, fall asleep not knowing a language and wake up fluent, those eight hours a day can actually be prime study time

The concept of sleep-learning, also known as “hypnopaedia,” has been widely researched, studied, and debated by scientists. Although there is much we still don’t know about what happens to us when we sleep, several recent studies have proven that hypnopaedia is more than just a theory. One 2017 study published in the Nature Communications journal found that people were able to learn new acoustic lessons while they slept — proving that our brains are receptive to new memories while we sleep. Another study, conducted in 2014 in Israel, found that exposure to foul cigarette smells while sleeping can combat cigarette addiction. So basically, sleep is more valuable than meets the eye — especially for college students trying to cram a semester’s worth of material into a few weeks.

I know what you’re thinking: This seems too good to be true. But don’t think this means you can become exam-ready without opening a textbook or reviewing your notes. As much as our brains are impressive and this would be ideal, we aren’t that advanced quite yet; some scientists still debate the theory of hypnopaedia. The point here is: Don’t underestimate the power of sleep! Getting those hours in is essential for your memory, and if you want to take it a step further, playing a lecture or two while you drift off to sleep for the night is a worthwhile idea. After you do some actual studying, OFC.

So, the next time you’re dying for a nap and can’t concentrate on reviewing for finals, you’ve got a perfect solution: Take what I now call a “study nap.” If this isn’t killing two birds with one stone, and a miracle cure for my constant fatigue during exam season, I don’t know what is.

Happy studying, besties — you’ve got this!

Abby is a National Writer for Her Campus and the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus at Waterloo. As part of the Wellness team, she covers topics related to mental health and relationships, but also frequently writes about digital trends, career advice, current events, and more. In her articles, she loves solving online debates, connecting with experts, and reflecting on her own experiences. She is also passionate about spreading the word about important cultural issues such as climate change and women’s rights; these are topics she frequently discusses in her articles. Abby began producing digital content at BuzzFeed, where she now has over 300 posts and 60 million overall views. Since then, she has also written for various online publications such as Thought Catalog, Collective World, and Unpacked. In addition to writing, Abby is also a UX and content designer; she most frequently spends her days building innovative, creative digital experiences. She has other professional experiences ranging from marketing to graphic design. When she’s not writing, Abby can be found reading the newest Taylor Jenkins Reid book, watching The Office, or eating pizza. She’s also been a dancer since she was four years old, and has most recently become obsessed with taking spin classes.