There have been many claims that one can learn while asleep—possibly with the aid of a recorded series of suggestions or information being spoken from a speaker under one’s pillow. Different research projects have arrived at a variety of conclusions.
The major scientific conclusion is that we do not learn from what we hear while asleep. Sleep is important in the process of learning, however.
If one learns a list of nonsense words, memory of them eight or twenty-four hours later is better if we have slept; memory eight hours later without sleep is not as efficient as twenty- four hours later with intervening sleep. This suggests memory traces are strengthened during sleep.
That we do learn, in the sense of creating new information or perception, while we sleep is generally accepted. Albert Einstein suggested that the creative scientists are those who have access to their dreams. He meant that in order to be innovative we must be able periodically to leave behind the practical everyday path of commonsense and rational thought.
The rational tends to move in areas of thought connected with what is already known.
To create something new, to find a new direction, we may need to be capable of retrieving apparently irrational ideas, sift them and reconstruct them in practical ways.
Dreams have this ability to fantasise, to look at and experience the irrational, to take an idea and move it completely out of its old setting or viewpoint. Because our mind can do this in sleep, we can touch not only our creativity, but also our ability to problem solve. As a personal test of this, try the following experiment. At the end of this explanation a problem will be set. It is one that requires no special training or information to solve.
The solution is simple and will be seen as conect when reached. But do not even begin to think about the problem until you go to bed! It would discount the experiment if you did. On going to bed, think about the problem for no more than 15 minutes.
If you solve the problem note how long it took.
If not, stop thinking about it and go to sleep, making the resolve to remember any dreams. It is likely that you will dream the answer.
If not, on waking spend a funher 15 minutes trying to reach the answer.
The letters 0,T,T,F,F,-,-, form the beginning of an intelligible series. Add two more letters which make it obvious that an infinite number of letters could be added. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences
Example: Many times in my adult life I have woken to find I have made love to my wife while asleep. Or I wake to discover myself in the middle of the sexual act. At such times I have usually been avoiding my sexual drive and it has burst through to fulfil itself while I was asleep or under the sway of dreams.
For instance most times this happened I have been in the middle of a dream in which there is a sense of absolute imperative that I must make love/have sex.
It is like being lost in a storm of glamour and fantasy or vision in which I am totally involved.
The whirl of the “dream” is towards the wonder, totality of the need to have sex. As this imperative is expressed in my still spontaneous, dreaming physical action, the experience of sex is also visionary and enormous’ (Charles W).
This fairly common dreaming experience demonstrates powerfully how dreams are an expression of a self regulatory or compensatory action in the psyche and body. Charles says that he had been restraining his sexual activity. This shows the enormous gulf which can exist between what we will to do as a conscious personality, and what our being needs to do or wishes to do outside conscious decision making.
The ‘glamour and fantasy’ Charles describes are regular features of how these deeper needs make themselves known, or attempt to coerce the conscious mind, into fulfilling the need.
If we reject the fantasy, the unconscious processes will attempt a more radical approach, as in actual physical movement while we sleep. This may have given rise to ideas about possession or devils in past ages, when it was not understood that we can split our mind by such conflicts. Fear of the possessing’ influence actually heightens its power through suggestion. It is much better to understand what one’s needs are, and seek an acceptable fulfilment. See abreaction. ... A Guide to Dreams and Sleep Experiences