“There is no sunrise so beautiful that it is worth waking me up to see it.”
Got to agree with Mindy Kaling on that one.
Sleeping is just the best. Lying warm and cozy in bed, away from the frustrations and obligations of the day…
I can feel my eyes closing already.
But what if you could get more out of sleep every night?
What if you could transform your nighttime into French learning time, all from the comfort of your bed?
Well, you can! Sleep is a powerful refresher for the mind and memory—you can take advantage of this by using the right study tools and techniques before you doze off.
Sounds like a dream, right?
What Makes Sleep Learning Useful?
One of the biggest advantages of sleep learning is that it makes use of down time. Struggling to find space in your day for French practice? Sleep learning opens up a whole new block of time for you to build your language skills.
You’ll be using your sleep learning resources with your head on the pillow and even soaking up some language while you’re unconscious!
Sleep learning also creates an immersive environment for your language skills to grow. One major hindrance to French fluency is the lack of day-to-day exposure to the language if you don’t live in a French-speaking region. But with the sleep learning tools and tips we’ll show you below, you can ensure that you end every day in “French mode.”
Okay, But Does Sleep Learning Really Work?
While you can’t expect to become fluent purely through sleep learning, research shows that it’s an effective way to boost your memory and reinforce language concepts.
For example, this Cerebral Cortex paper indicates that exposure to recently learned foreign vocabulary words during sleep will improve memorization of those words.
And if you know some of the science behind sleep, this makes sense. Researchers say that while you’re asleep, your brain is reviewing the day and creating long-term memories.
This also helps outline some of the limits of sleep learning: you’ll be able to retain more of what you’ve already learned, but you likely won’t be able to, say, pick up a whole new set of vocabulary while you’re asleep.
Learn French from Bed! 9 Ways to Learn French While You Sleep
Use the French Vocabulary CDs from sleeplearning.com
This toolkit is comprised of two CDs with 850 of the most common spoken French words. Through repeated listening to these CDs both while awake and then asleep, you’ll quickly build and reinforce your store of French vocabulary.
The second CD uses binaural beats, which are a sort of auditory illusion created when different frequencies are played in each ear. They’ve been said to create a calming mood and enhance memory retention during sleep.
Try Mind Motivation’s French Sleep Learning Program
This one is similar to the resource above, with the goal of teaching you 450 common French words and phrases. It’s split into “awake tracks” and “sleep tracks” that build off of each other for maximum retention.
The CDs contain subliminal messages (messages designed to pass under the radar of the conscious mind) that influence the subconscious mind to aid in retaining the French words and phrases.
Subscribe to Learn French with Vincent
This YouTube channel wasn’t created specifically for sleep learning, but the host’s clear speech and soothing voice make it perfect for pillow-time passive listening.
Vincent covers a range of language topics including vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar points. He takes his time to slowly enunciate and clarify the words and phrases he uses.
Try watching a video once in the daytime and then listening to the audio again at night, and you’ll get the most out of his lessons.
Get Nightly Authentic French Exposure with FluentU
One of the best ways to develop native-level speaking and comprehension skills is to absorb authentic French content as much as possible. It’s essentially the next best thing to upping and moving to France for a total immersion experience. Based on the memory-boosting powers of sleep that we discussed above, listening to authentic French right before bed is a simple way to cement native pronunciations and speech patterns in your mind.
That means you’ll be actively building new French words into your short-term memory, which your sleeping brain can then transfer to your long-term memory.
Plus, authentic French videos are just fun! You can take them anywhere in the waking world, too. All you have to do is download the FluentU mobile app for iOS or for Android devices.
Learn French Vocabulary from the Sleep Learning YouTube Channel
This resource uses repetition of common French phrases and vocabulary along with binaural beats.
The idea is for the listener to repeat the phrases mentally while drifting asleep. The audio frequency shifts as the video plays to optimize learning before and after sleep.
Listen to FrenchPod101
There’s a podcast for everything these days, right? This one is a favorite among French learners and it’s particularly useful for sleep learning.
For one thing, you could listen to it every night and it would take a long time to run out of podcasts! There are more than 1,000 audio and video lessons available through FrenchPod101, with new ones released every week.
FrenchPod101 will also fit seamlessly into your nighttime regimen, no matter what it is. You can watch video lessons as you brush your teeth and put on pajamas, you can read PDF lesson notes in bed or you can simply play audio lessons from your mobile device as you close your eyes.
When you wake up, use the tailor-made vocabulary building tools and flashcards to see how much you remember!
Play French Music as You Go to Sleep
Music makes everything better! It’s long been regarded as a great tool for learning, and it’s easy to see why from a language perspective. The rhymes and repetition will help you remember new French words as you start singing along!
To incorporate French learning through music before sleep, I’d suggest using music that’s on your level—beginners might try children’s music and advanced speakers might go for some French rap.
Listen to a Recording of Yourself Speaking French
There’s no one we listen to more in life than ourselves. That’s why affirmations are so powerful in retraining our thoughts about ourselves. By listening to yourself speaking French, you’re more inclined to believe that you truly are a competent French speaker!
Take a short recording of yourself reading a French paragraph or a dialogue with another person. Make it your best, so that as you listen to it while you doze off you ensure that you’re adding the proper pronunciation and speech patterns to your long-term memory.
Furthermore, you’ll solidify your self-image as a French speaker!
Take Advantage of Memory-boosting Scents
Specific scents (such as aromatherapy oils) can boost your memory, so take advantage of this before you go to sleep! Studies have found that smelling scents like rosemary, lavender and peppermint may improve concentration and retention of learned material.
Okay, so does that mean lighting a lavender candle at night will instantly put French vocabulary words in your brain? Probably not—but it does mean that you can create a focused, memory-friendly environment for yourself as you’re studying before bed.
Plus, if you smell the same scents when you wake up in the morning, they can help trigger and reinforce your French knowledge from the night before.
So grab your favorite blanket and a cup of chamomile tea—it’s time to sleep like a French learner!
Stasie Tillman is a mom, writer and financial expert. She’s on a quest to live a balanced life in all aspects. That includes proudly wearing her “Eiffel in love in Paris” shirt on as many occasions as possible! Come be encouraged and find inspiration on her A Stoic Life blog.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.