So say you haven't followed that first step up there and choose to continue sleeping like other mere mortals. A very minor change in your schedule can still let you use your sleep patterns to your advantage, by making you smarter.
Holy Shit, How Can I Do It?
No, we're not talking about those scams where they have you put a tape recorder under your pillow and let it teach you Spanish while you're asleep. What scientists have found out is if you need to remember a bunch of information (say, for a big exam), do NOT study right up until time for the exam. Study at least 24 hours before, and sleep on it.
Note: "Sleep on it" is simply an expression. You can sleep in a bed.
They did a study at Harvard that proved this technique works. Participants were separated into three different groups after being shown images that they were told to memorize. One of the groups was tested on the memorization after 20 minutes, the other after 12 hours and the last after 24 hours. You would expect that the ones who were tested just 20 minutes later would do best, but that would, of course, make a really shitty story.
No, the participants who slept on it and had 24 hours for the information to fester in their brain did the best on the test, while those who only had 20 minutes did the worst.
Wasting your time, nerds, go to sleep.
How Does It Work?
Scientists say the ability your brain has to retain information works in three different ways: acquisition, consolidation and recall. While the first and last occur while you're awake, it's the middle-man that is important during sleep.
When you sleep, your brain is constantly processing information that you couldn't have processed with everything going on up there during the day. This works to strengthen your neurological bonds in the brain. Think of it like downloading something on a computer. When you go to download something while your porn is up, it takes longer, right? Close up any applications that are running and you have a smoother, quicker download. Yeah, kind of like that... maybe.
So does this technique work with the "sleep two hours a day" system we mentioned earlier? We're not sure anyone has tried it, but by our calculations such a person would immediately gain mental superpowers, possibly including telekinesis. Somebody in the comments try it and let us know.
Stop for a moment and recall your fondest childhood memory. Or your worst. In either case, there's a really good chance that it's total bullshit.
Memory is a funny thing. Research has consistently found that our memories from when we were kids are either extremely inaccurate, or didn't happen at all. They are just elaborate constructions of a memory storage system that isn't very good at distinguishing real memories from fake ones.
Are you positive this didn't happen?
So what if we told you that there was a way to do this on purpose? To hack your brain into believing (and "seeing" vividly) a completely made-up event that never actually happened?
Holy Shit! How Do I Do It?
The trick is you need somebody else to do it for you (or to you). But it takes very little effort, and no Total Recall-style brain-hacking machines.
Or torso mutants.
For instance, in a study in 1995 researchers sat down a group of people and mentioned four incidents from their childhood (gathered from family members) and asked subjects how well they remembered them. What they didn't mention was that one of the stories (a tale of them being lost in a specific shopping mall) was utter bullshit.
It didn't matter. Twenty percent came back with sudden memories of the event that, in reality, never happened. The sheer act of asking them if it did, caused them to manufacture the memory, filling in details on the fly.
Remember when Bruce Campbell was President?
Researchers knew they could up that 20 percent figure. In another test, an unsuspecting group of people who had visited Disneyland in the past were placed in a room with a cardboard cutout of Bugs Bunny and/or were shown fake ads for Disneyland featuring Bugs. Afterwards, 40 percent claimed they vividly remembered seeing a guy in a Bugs Bunny costume when they were at Disneyland. They didn't, of course (Bugs isn't a Disney character).
Another study took it a step further, and actually Photoshopped a picture of each subject riding in a hot air balloon. When asked if they recalled this non-event, 50 percent said they did. Other experiments successfully convinced people they had at one time nearly drowned, been hospitalized or been attacked by a wild animal.
How Does It Work?
Your brain kind of plays it fast and loose when it stores memories, and for good reason: Usually the details don't matter. You remember your best friend's phone number but don't remember exactly where and when he told you. You remember that you hate zucchini, but don't remember what day of the week you tried it. Your brain breaks up memories into a stew of general lessons learned and important stuff you'll need later.
The problem is that same process makes it very difficult to distinguish real memories from fake ones since the source of a memory is so often discarded in the stew. A fact you think you read in a newspaper might in reality have been read in a fictional novel, or heard from a friend, or dreamed, or implanted by somebody who's fucking with you.
So not only could somebody do this for you (though it would have to be set up so that you don't know where and when) but it seems like you could run a pretty successful business just implanting happy childhoods for people.
You know, like that time you found out you were adopted, and that your real parents were the Thundercats.
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Discover what other powers your mind is withholding from you, in 5 Superpowers You Didn't Know Your Body Was Hiding From You. Or discover whether or not science is trying to turn your crippling obesity into awesome super strength (hint: they aren't), in 5 Technologies That Turn Handicaps Into Super Powers.
And stop by our Top Picks to see Brockway's decent into madness as he tries to sleep only two hours a day.
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