A charming short article from the July 23, 1923 edition of Time magazine, about the supposedly receptive nature of the dormant brain.
Needless to say, sleeping radio operators were not adopted as the mainstay of the US Navy’s communication system.
It is true, however, that during the hypnagogic state, the transition from wakefulness into sleep, the mind can make connections between seemingly unconnected perceptions, thoughts and ideas.
The accidental falling asleep, with the phones on his head, of a student in training for a job as radio operator in the U. S. Navy led to a discovery which will vastly shorten the process of manufacturing experts in wireless telegraphy. While the code and its translation were coming through the ether, the brain cells of the sleeping man, in a state of plastic receptivity, were absorbing the meaning of the dots and dashes and forming new associations. On waking, he was able to repeat accurately everything he had received in sleep. Psychologists say that such results are feasible because of the automatic, repetitive nature of the material conveyed to the dormant brain.
Navy officials immediately instituted tests of the method at Pensacola, Fla. Twelve students who were making unsatisfactory progress were tried out. After two nights, during which the code was sent to those students in sleep, ten had learned the lesson, and the other two had left the class before completion of the experiment. The instructors now report that ” the experimental stage is past, and the method may now be termed a standard one.”
Link to 1923 Time article ‘Radio and Sleep’.