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Babies DO Learn While Sleeping

Have you ever wondered what is going on in your baby’s head? Even when he or she is sleeping? I am sure that like me, you spent many a hour watching your newborn sleep. Sometimes you’d be rewarded by baby sounds or a slight smile. And you get to wonder, what is going on in that little brain?

Researchers of the University of Florida give us this answer: newborn babies are learning while they are sleeping!

Newborns Learn Even While Sleeping

Right after delivery, babies spend most of time sleeping, up to 18 hours a day. Yet, the first few days and weeks of a baby’s life is also a period of rapid development when babies learn to react to their surroundings, from learning to see to recognizing sounds. So when do they get the time to learn all these things? The researchers believe that newborn babies learn all the time, awake or asleep. In fact, newborns can be considered data sponges, processing data while in dreamland.

The researchers demonstrated this by simultaneously sounding a tone and blowing a gentle puff of air into a sleeping baby’s eyelids. After repeating this several times, the researcher sounded the tone without the puff of air. The results showed that most babies reacted to the tone by squeezing their eyelids instinctively. This reaction was reflected in changes in brain waves as measured by ECG.

Do Adults Learn While Sleeping Too?

Unfortunately not. Babies’ sleeping patterns are different from those of adults. Their sleeping state is relative “more active” with changeable breathing and heart rates, a state which allows babies to experience the world without being truly awake. Their brains are different, too, with more neural plasticity that allows to be changed by experience.

The results are interesting from a learning point of view but it can have some consequences on early screening for developmental and neurological problems, including autism and dyslexia.

But next time you look at your sleeping baby, you’ll have an idea what’s going inside his or her head. Your baby is listening, experiencing, learning what’s around – including you.


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