Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Know something I would love to know?

How is it that we stop listening in our sleep?  Hearing is, as you all know, something that we cannot shut off, like we can sight.  We can't close our ears and stop.  Obviously we can drown out other noise - fingers in ears "I'm not listening...LALALALALALALALA"

Here's the reason.  I listen to podcasts sometimes when I can't sleep, and on vacation I was somewhat book deprived (didn't bring enough) and I was sometimes listening at night instead of reading.  Sort of like having a story read to you before bed.

The fancy shmancy ipod though, doesn't recognise when I've gone to sleep the way that my folks did when I was little, and so it goes on and on and on through all the podcasts I've downloaded for that show till it comes to an end.  A real battery killer that can be.

As I result, I normally chose the last podcast in a list, so that if I doze off, as I so often do, it doesn't go on infinitely.  Last night though, I really wanted to listen to this new - to me - podcast, 99% Invisible, which is supremely cool. All about design and how design impacts on our lives, and the fact that good design is indeed, 99% invisible.

Anyway, I had downloaded all the shows, and was about 2/3 through, they're short....and I really wanted  to listen. So I did.

Then this morning, I had to figure out where I went to sleep (near the end) and I relistened to the last 4 or 5.

And I was amazed.

How is it, when these stories were being poured directly into my brain from ear buds, that I have no recollection of them.  None.  The ear was still functioning, but something neurological inside was simply switched right off.  The difference between hearing and listening....but how is it that we can hear and so completely not listen.  I get it when we're awake, you simple aren't paying attention, so maybe it is an extreme form of this inattention, but still......

I would love to know if we respond to stories in our sleep, but simply have absolutely no recall.  None.

We do respond to extreme sounds in our sleep, and we are roused....a noise in the house and you wake up, not sure why......

I still whisper to my kids that I love them, even though they're sleeping.  Maybe somewhere deep inside they hear it and know.

I don't understand how they can't.


Anonymous said...

well, as you said. Hearing and Listening are two very different things. Maybe during sleep the brain functions set the listening abilities to "reptilian level", i.e. will only pay attention to sounds that would be interpreted as danger and therefore would require to wake you up. Crying baby, fire alarm, etc, so that the rest of the brain can focus on more important things, like that dream you wanted to have but got cut off last night when a barking dog woke you up :D

J.G. said...

I definitely think the brain is still listening, but not processing on a conscious level. It is thinking about your dreams instead. But I bet those podcasts are all in there somewhere!

Mother Theresa said...

Ooh, now I'm just going to have to listen to those podcasts too, they sound fascinating. As far as listening while you are asleep, I agree with elpadwan, our brains will react to certain sounds, but most won't be processed. So, nope, I don't think the podcasts are in there anywhere, so you'll just have to listen to them again.

oreneta said...

ElP, The crying baby example is, I think an excellent example. I used to wake in an instant to baby cries, then gradually the switch just got turned off, we had decided the man would get up once the kids get older as goes back to sleep faster, and then it just stopped. Another example of it was when we were living on the boat. I know that the man is quite a light sleeper, and so I at some level knew that he would wake to sounds quickly. I didn't realise how organized this system was until he was off the boat for a week now and then, and suddenly I was waking up several times a night. My brain had switched its settings in his absence.

I still think the kids hear me say that I love them when they're sleeping, at some level.

JG...they must be!!!! How weird though, like a whole hidden filing system.

Mother T...you should, there are some great ones out there...and if they are filed, I can't find em, I listened again.