Can You Really Learn Korean While Sleeping

Can You Really Learn Korean While Sleeping?

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In today’s busy world, it can be impossible to stay on top of things. And if you’re learning Korean, the amount of readily available information can be overwhelming.

Between browsing through endless articles, podcasts, and videos about K-pop, K-drama, culture, food, skincare, and language, where do you find time to sleep? 

Plus, if you’re a productivity nerd like me, you’re always looking for new and efficient ways to learn new skills.

When it comes to learning Korean, there isn’t a shortage of options, from MOOC classes, Youtube videos, free online material, and many more, sometimes I’m just looking for that something a little out of the ordinary.

So what about learning while sleeping?

But wait… Isn’t sleep a time for relaxation or for recharging the energy we’ve spent during our busy day? Isn’t sleep a time to dream? 

Some say that time spent asleep is time wasted, and it can actually be used as a time to learn a bunch of new things, including a language.

But is it possible to learn Korean or any language while you are sleeping? 

It sounds far too good to be true, regardless, I just had to find out.

Table of Contents

How Does Learning While Sleeping Work?

Ok I admit it.  I’m a little bit lazy, so learning Korean while sleeping sounds very appealing.  Where do we start?

Sleep Learning, also known as hypnopedia, is a technique that works to convey information to a person while they sleep. This is typically done by listening to an audio recording while snoozing.

Since it is impossible to write, speak, or read a language while you are sleeping, listening is the only sense that can be used to stimulate the brain. The premise of sleep learning is heavily reliant on aural resources, such as audial language courses or programs, specifically designed for learning while you listen.

And in the case of learning Korean, you would use audio recordings to teach you new Korean vocabulary or phrases. 

Some sleep-learners also make use of a rather strange technique which involves listening to binaural beats.

Listening to binaural beats is a technique designed to assist with sleep-learning, but also helps to manage stress and anxiety.

So how does it work?  Usually, it involves combining two different sound frequencies into one, to create a singular tone.

The science behind this is quite complicated (you can read more about binaural beats here).

Still, some people swear by this technique when it comes to helping them relax and learn (which is never a bad thing!)

Some Of The Possible Benefits Of Learning While Sleeping

Alright, so now we understand a little more about the science, let’s explore some of the potential benefits.

#1 Unlock Extra Hours in the Day

One of the top benefits you could achieve learning while sleeping, is making use of unutilized time – a time where you would otherwise be, well, sleeping.  

With most people spending a third of their life catching z’s, you are actually increasing your capacity to learn, simply by extending your day.

#2 It Can Help with Your Vocabulary Retention

Experts say that sleep learning may help improve your vocabulary retention.

When we sleep, our marvelous brain works to consolidate and solidify all the memories we have made during the day, storing them away for long term use.  This is one of the reasons why sleep is incredibly important.

So even if you can’t learn new vocabulary, sleeping will actually help you remember more of what you have picked up during your waking hours.

#3 It Gives You More Exposure to the Language You Are Studying

Another fantastic reason? All those extra hours of “sleep-learning” increases your exposure to your target language.

By listening to a podcast or some music in the background while you sleep, this added exposure can really help develop your ability to recognize words, and help to improve your general listening ability.

So Can You Learn Korean While Sleeping?

Our brain is a fascinating yet complex organ, so it’s not entirely crazy to think sleep-learning may be within the realm of possibility.

If you’re short on time and want to learn a language quickly, maybe learning while sleeping could be an extremely efficient and effective way to supercharge your skills.

After all, if you sleep for an average of 8 hours a day, that’s an extra 8 hours that you can dedicate to learning.

However, the question remains: Does it really work?

To simply answer the question, the answer is no. I know, super disappointing…

According to this article, learning while sleeping is everyone’s dream, but it is far beyond reality.

The reason is rather simple:  sleep lacks the neurochemicals and awareness necessary for learning.

That means, absorbing complicated information or acquiring a new skill from scratch by solely listening to an audio recording while sleeping is pretty much impossible

Sleep-aided learning acts more like a support system to the conscious brain – strengthening knowledge but not substituting your daytime study hours.

Why Doesn't It Work?

Our brain reacts to stimulation while we are sleeping, but as mighty as the human brain is, when it comes to an unfamiliar or new stimulus, like learning a new language,  it simply can’t process this level of complexity while unconscious.

Here are a few more reasons why sleep-learning is just a myth:

#1 You’ll Forget It

Even when you are awake, you tend to forget things.

According to this study,  our memories are, evidently, personal. We remember things based on what we consider useful and relevant. These factors affect how memories are accessed, prioritized, and stored in the long-term. So, if memories are introduced in a shallow manner or poorly (such as during sleep), these memories may be unrecoverable or, even worse, completely forgotten.

Just think about the last time you woke from a vivid dream which you then forgot a few minutes later.  If learning while we sleep was possible, woudln’t we also be able to easily recall those memories?

#2 Passive Learning Is Not Active Unless There Are New Incoming Signals

In the book, Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, Walker discusses the importance of sleeping when it comes to consolidating our short term memories into our longer-term storage.  

In summary, sleeping is essential for filing away what we have learned during the day into our memory banks where they are stored and can be recalled at a later date.

For a more complex study, such as Korean or a foreign language, sleep helps us to consolidate what we have already learned, instead of actively processing new information.

#3 Repeat After Me

The fact of the matter is, you won’t learn Korean or any language efficiently if you are only “listening.”

When learning any language, you need to develop the fundamental skills of writing, reading, and speaking, at the same time.

Simply put, if you’re only ever feeding your brain (through listening), and not putting anything into practice, your learning efforts will, unfortunately, be wasted.

According to Clozemaster, what we input into our brains, either through listening or reading, is very important. This act of consolidating new information is the primary input source of language into our brain.

But it’s not enough, it is still essential to practice listening, reading, writing, and speaking to truly master a language.

Continuous practice and repetition are fundamental building blocks to fluency.

According to Bonwell and Eison:

students participate [in active learning] when they are doing something besides passively listening.

Why Is Active Learning Better Than Passive Sleep Learning?

Active learning is the best choice for deliberately processing new information to your brain. When you are awake, it’s easy for you to connect new information to information that you already know, combining it to make new signals. This is how you learn.

Active learning also provides a recall or deeper understanding of the material while you are engaging in the content, rather than just listening to it. 

When you are trying to learn a new language, you need to practice by saying it out loud, try doing that while sleeping!

Aside from speaking the language, it is important to practice your reading. And you definitely can’t do that while catching forty winks!

Learning Korean also means that you need to learn how to write Hangeul. And to practice writing in Korean, you need to be awake to do it.

Lastly, the best way to learn Korean or any language is to practice speaking with a native and you need at least one other conscious person to do that!


If you’re looking for a fast and efficient way to learn Korean, there are a few things that help.  And while sleeping will help in consolidating your active learning, it’s not a golden shortcut to fluency.

So what can help?

First, motivation. The bottom line is you have to want to learn.  Being motivated all the time is almost impossible. But, there are some things you can to to help with motivation, one being mixing up your daily routine.

Second is resourcefulness. There are lots of ways that you can use to learn the language. Today, some apps allow you to talk or chat with native speakers, aiding you in polishing your Korean speaking skills.

Lastly, practice. They say that practice makes perfect. And in learning any language, I am a firm believer in that.

If you want to learn Korean or any foreign language, you need to know how to speak, read, listen, and write in that language. That means that you need to be awake and active. To truly learn the Korean language, you should have a teacher, learning materials, such as textbooks and workbooks, or try out a Korean language class online.  

But, if you are still curious about sleep-learning, why not give it a go, there’s really nothing to lose! It may strengthen your brain in regard to retention; however, that does not mean that it is an effective learning method when stood alone.

Check our one of our favorite videos below, from!


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