Sleep is superior to waking for promoting performance improvements between sessions of visual perceptual and motor learning tasks. Few studies have investigated possible effects of sleep on auditory learning. A key issue is whether sleep specifically promotes learning, or whether restful waking yields similar benefits. According to the "interference hypothesis," sleep facilitates learning because it prevents interference from ongoing sensory input, learning and other cognitive activities that normally occur during waking. We tested this hypothesis by comparing effects of sleep, busy waking (watching a film) and restful waking (lying in the dark) on auditory tone sequence learning. Consistent with recent findings for human language learning, we found that compared with busy waking, sleep between sessions of auditory tone sequence learning enhanced performance improvements. Restful waking provided similar benefits, as predicted based on the interference hypothesis. These findings indicate that physiological, behavioral and environmental conditions that accompany restful waking are sufficient to facilitate learning and may contribute to the facilitation of learning that occurs during sleep.