Scientists uncover your brain’s secret conversations after dark

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silence-is-key-to-restful-sleep(NaturalHealth365)  Have you ever wondered whether a faint noise, such as voices from an adjacent room, can have a negative impact on sleep?  A recent study published in Nature Neuroscience shows people do respond to voices when sleeping.

In this article, we’ll delve into the details of this intriguing sleep study, offering insights into its findings and their implications, along with valuable tips to help improve your sleep quality.

Secrets of slumber: Can you hear words in your sleep?

In a remarkable study conducted by the Sleep Pathology Department at Pitié-Salpêtrière University Hospital in Paris and the Paris Brain Institute, sleepers’ interactions with spoken words have unveiled a previously unknown dimension of our sleep experiences.  These revelations emerged as researchers observed participants responding to verbalized words through facial muscle contractions during slumber.

This study involved 22 individuals grappling with various sleep disorders and 27 participants dealing with narcolepsy, a condition marked by uncontrollable daytime sleepiness.  Each participant was asked to attempt a nap while engaging in a unique lexical decision task.  Articulating real and fabricated words, human voices prompted sleepers to smile or frown, indicating their perception of word authenticity.

The evidence is in: Your ears are still listening after hitting the hay

A common misconception is that nothing is heard when sleeping unless it is especially loud.  As detailed in the study above, individuals are not entirely isolated from their surrounding environment when sleeping.

During the trial, polysomnography (sleep study) was used to record brain activity, eye movement, muscle tone, and even heart activity.  The vast majority of the patients responded to the verbalized words when sleeping.  Moreover, correct responses to the verbalized stimuli were also more likely to occur when lucid dreaming.

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Scientists also used electroencephalography (EEG) – a test that detects abnormalities in brain waves or the electrical activity of the brain – to distinguish between research participant’s waking state and each unique state of sleep.  Though few would guess it, people can hear the human voice throughout nearly every stage of sleep.  As a result, the scientific and medical communities now question whether the current definition of “sleep” is truly accurate.  Moreover, academicians are also revisiting the clinical criteria that categorize sleep into distinct stages.

Is the ability to hear nearby voices when sleeping a blessing or a curse?

Most readers will automatically assume the ability to hear human voices when sleeping is detrimental to health simply because noise interrupts sleep, potentially to the point of waking prematurely.  However, hearing and understanding language when sleeping might benefit human health.

As researchers learn more about the human brain’s ability to process verbalized words while sleeping, we inch closer toward a future in which cognitive processing that underlies sleep is used for beneficial purposes such as learning new information.

Silencing the night: Tips for peaceful sleep in a noisy world

The sleep study makes it clear that eliminating verbal stimulation while attempting to sleep is important for a night of quality rest.  If you live with others or in an apartment with thin walls that create the potential to hear neighbors’ voices in adjacent units, add a couple of white noise machines to the corners of your bedroom to drown out any potential voices.

Don’t assume sleep interruption is inevitable if you can still faintly hear nearby voices or other noise pollution after adding white noise.  Consider covering your ears for complete silence and a restful sleep.

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