Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.
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erdnasephile
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Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby erdnasephile » September 21st, 2014, 9:21 pm

I have a goofy question.

Many times I will be working on learning a sleight in the evening and try as I might, I just can't get the sleight to work. I finally give up and go to bed.

However, I've found that sometimes when I wake up and attempt the sleight again, I am suddenly able to do it perfectly. Moreover, I'm able to continue doing the sleight from that point onward.

This has happened to me many times, and I'm at a loss to explain the phenomenon.

Just wondering: Has this ever happened to you?

brianarudolph
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby brianarudolph » September 21st, 2014, 9:49 pm

While I cannot speak to the specific reasoning behind it, I have experienced this with a number of things, including magic sleights over the years.

The subconscious mind loves working on problems even when we aren't consciously working on them. Hence the phrase "I'll sleep on it" since often the solution appears overnight, or the term "shower problem" referring to a solution that appears during waking hours when you are doing something other than working on the problem at hand (such as taking a shower.)

Many times I've found the solution to a difficult puzzle, fixed a devious bug in a computer program, or finally grasped something (mentally or physically) simply by getting away from it for a while. This also includes learning a few sleights.

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erdnasephile
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby erdnasephile » September 21st, 2014, 9:57 pm

Hi, Brian:

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

I get the solving mental problems part--I often get my best ideas while running.

However, it's the seemingly unconscious physical part of learning the sleight during sleep that freaks me out...

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MManchester
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby MManchester » September 21st, 2014, 10:07 pm

Your situation reminds me a lot of the advice given to students not to cram during the night before an exam and neglect sleep. It's difficult to find a reputable article that offers an exact parallel. This one comes close:

Why Sleeping May Be More Important Than Studying
http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/01 ... -studying/

From the article:

“If you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, it’s really hard to learn new things because you didn’t clear out all the synaptic connections.”

“In REM sleep your brain is basically replaying everything that happened during the day and consolidating what you’ve learned,” Carter said. During the learning process, the brain’s synapses fire in particular patterns. At night, those patterns are firing over and over again, strengthening the path. Equally important, there are many small details the brain remembers from the previous day that it won’t need. During REM sleep the brain purges the unnecessary details to make room for new learning the following day."
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lybrary
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby lybrary » September 21st, 2014, 11:19 pm

I am not a brain researcher but I have been following and reading brain research for decades and am quite fascinated by it. My entry was almost 30 years ago working on neural networks in software and hardware. Anyway, here are two points:

A lot of motor skills are not only regulated and memorized in the brain, but in the nerves throughout the body. That is why we have the term 'muscle memory'. So a lot of that learning of movements actually happens in the muscle and the surrounding tissue and nerves. Cellular interaction on a protein level can be quite slow. Rebuilding of cells, etc, takes hours and days. So the stimulus of practice does not have an immediate training response but takes a day or two to manifest itself.

Here is another example of that delayed training response. Go to the gym and do a heavy workout. Say work on your vertical jump by doing leg presses and squads. Then measure your vertical jump over the next couple of days. You will most likely find that on the second day after the workout you will jump highest. So the training response takes about 2 days to fully manifest itself. A lot of that higher jumping does not come from a stronger muscle but improved nervous system, more coordinated firing of your muscles, etc. The effect of training sleight of hand is similar. Your nervous system in the muscles has to adapt and this simply takes a day or two before it happens.
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Q. Kumber
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby Q. Kumber » September 22nd, 2014, 3:19 am

It's not just overnight. Some magicians have the experience of working hard on a sleight for a period of time and still not being happy with it. So they stop. Months later they think about it again, try it, and it works convincingly.

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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby Brad Jeffers » September 22nd, 2014, 5:30 am

Thanks for posting this erdnasephile.

I was beginning to feel like somewhat of a slacker until I read this.

Now I've come to realize that for the past 30 years I have been practicing my magic for 8 hours a day.

Sometimes 9.

Occasionally 10. :(

Anyway, it's getting late and I need to do a little work on my ambitious card routine.

Goodnight.

;)

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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 22nd, 2014, 7:45 am

Learning consciously is not so quick when context/description are presented as incomplete or in conflict.

Probably quicker to let your subconscious manage your adaptation for a sleight. Though some of those adaptations can be unproductive - like holding a pack with both hands as adaptation to a pass or extra ball transfers before a false transfer in a cups and balls routine.
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby Q. Kumber » September 22nd, 2014, 8:01 am

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Learning consciously is not so quick when context/description are presented as incomplete or in conflict.

Probably quicker to let your subconscious manage your adaptation for a sleight. Though some of those adaptations can be unproductive - like holding a pack with both hands as adaptation to a pass or extra ball transfers before a false transfer in a cups and balls routine.


Jonathan explained it far better than I could.

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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby Ted M » September 22nd, 2014, 10:31 am

Thanks to erdnasephile for raising this, and to Chris for his insights.

As an undergraduate I discovered that when I was stuck on a mathematical proof, I could think about it before falling asleep and often I would awaken in the morning with a solution. I was amazed at this, yet also terrified that I might come to rely on such a mysterious and uncertain process.

Thanks to Chris' insights about muscle memory, I'm going to revamp my practice schedule for my weekly tuba lesson...

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erdnasephile
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby erdnasephile » September 22nd, 2014, 11:15 am

lybrary wrote:I am not a brain researcher but I have been following and reading brain research for decades and am quite fascinated by it. My entry was almost 30 years ago working on neural networks in software and hardware. Anyway, here are two points:

A lot of motor skills are not only regulated and memorized in the brain, but in the nerves throughout the body. That is why we have the term 'muscle memory'. So a lot of that learning of movements actually happens in the muscle and the surrounding tissue and nerves. Cellular interaction on a protein level can be quite slow. Rebuilding of cells, etc, takes hours and days. So the stimulus of practice does not have an immediate training response but takes a day or two to manifest itself.

Here is another example of that delayed training response. Go to the gym and do a heavy workout. Say work on your vertical jump by doing leg presses and squads. Then measure your vertical jump over the next couple of days. You will most likely find that on the second day after the workout you will jump highest. So the training response takes about 2 days to fully manifest itself. A lot of that higher jumping does not come from a stronger muscle but improved nervous system, more coordinated firing of your muscles, etc. The effect of training sleight of hand is similar. Your nervous system in the muscles has to adapt and this simply takes a day or two before it happens.


Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

Chris: that's really interesting. I've encountered the same sort of thing in the running literature where the postulate you have to train your neuromuscular connections to improve running efficiency.

On a weird tangent, I remember reading a horror short story about a guy who had a hand transplant. Too bad for him, the hand he got previously belonged to a serial killer. You can guess what happens next. Scared the heck out of me as a pre-teen.

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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby MJLauck » September 22nd, 2014, 11:47 am

Don't just sleep on it; embrace the benefits of visualization. Imagine yourself doing the sleights correctly over and over and it will help you. Here are some tips:

http://www.sportpsychologytoday.com/spo ... alization/

They are sports related but still applicable.
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby Richard Kaufman » September 22nd, 2014, 12:31 pm

Jeff Sheridan used to practice WHILE he was sleeping. I saw it. He didn't have cards in his hands, but his hands would move through almost his entire card routine in perfect mime.
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby billmccloskey » September 22nd, 2014, 12:35 pm

I'm no brain expert but I've always thought that this phenomena was due to synapses being formed in the brain. Any new learned/muscle type memory needs time to burn itself into the synapses of the brain which is why the next day, you can perform the sleight easier. You have to wait until the brain forms the connections.

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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby AJM » September 22nd, 2014, 6:37 pm

Of course there is the Chinese proverb which states that the man who goes to bed with a stiff problem usually wakes with a solution in his hands.

:lol:
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby lybrary » September 23rd, 2014, 8:55 am

erdnasephile wrote:On a weird tangent, I remember reading a horror short story about a guy who had a hand transplant. Too bad for him, the hand he got previously belonged to a serial killer. You can guess what happens next. Scared the heck out of me as a pre-teen.


There is a similar case but much more uplifting. Some unhealthy guy who never did any type of sport received a heart transplant. He received the heart of an athlete runner. Guess what. That couch potato is now compelled to run and has become a long distance runner himself. These cases clearly show that our nervous system stretching throughout our entire body provides functionality that traditionally was believed to be located in the brain alone.
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erdnasephile
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby erdnasephile » May 27th, 2016, 8:23 am

"It does sound mystical. Sometimes it feels that way. Sometimes you can't do a sleight and then you wake up and can just do it. I feel there's something about giving up. I've never said this out loud, but when you give up, quite often you can do it." -- Mike Pisciotta

From "Zen and the Art of Doing Card Tricks for Drunks" by Chris Philpott [MAGIC, June 2016, pg 46]

Ha! I knew it! ;)

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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby AJM » May 27th, 2016, 11:31 am

I perform magic far better when I'm asleep.
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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby Leo Garet » May 27th, 2016, 12:59 pm

When I'm asleep I dream I perform better.

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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby performer » May 27th, 2016, 3:36 pm

I think a far bigger problem for most magicians is to stop their audiences falling asleep.

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Re: Is it possible to learn sleights while you sleep?

Postby webbmaster » March 20th, 2017, 1:38 pm

This is all very interesting and I use dreaming for a lot of creative work, but for me the best thing is to get ideas for effects or new versions of old tricks or ways to streamline a technique (edit an existing trick) . During meditation or self-hypnosis I give myself the suggestion that my dreams will get clearer and I'll have more control. Don't forget you can just use your meditation time to get ideas and improve things too. There are forms of meditation, Dzogchen for one, which consider it alright to "work on stuff" in your head while you meditate.


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