What happens in our brain while we are sleeping?

What happens in our brain while we are sleeping?


You would think that your brain is quiet while you sleep, but the opposite is true. The brain is highly active during the night. We learn and rework emotions while we sleep. Good sleep is important for a brain that needs to be able to perform.

There are two phases of sleep: the paradoxical sleep stage (also called REM sleep) and the orthodox stage (Non-REM-phases).

A healthy person usually falls asleep about 15 to 20 minutes after lying down. First, the brain experiences two phases of light sleep in a row. Then your brain slips into deep sleep, which can be seen in medical imaging techniques such as an EEG as low-frequency delta waves. Then we start to dream.

The eyes are moving rapidly, that’s why these phases are also called rapid eye movement sleep (REM). Scientists call this phase paradoxical sleep because it is very similar to being awake. The sleeping person breathes faster in these phases, has a faster pulse and burns more calories than in other sleep phases. This sequence of light sleep, deep sleep and REM-sleep can be repeated several times during the night, with NON-REM-sleep, which is the deep sleep stage, being the longest.

Babies, on the other hand, experience more REM-sleep than adults, with almost half of their sleep duration being dream time associated with paradoxical sleep.


Learning in your sleep

Sleep has a special significance for learning. Good deep sleep phases improve our memory. In this NON-REM stage, recollections of what happened during the day are repeated, evaluated and stored in memory. Studies show that people get memory problems if they lack deep sleep.

During the paradoxical REM phase, emotions and feelings are dealt with and ordered. If we remember dreams on the next day, it’s usually an emotional dream from this phase. Scientists have also discovered that we can remember our feelings better if we sleep long enough. This is true not only for positive feelings but also for traumatic experiences. It is however not proven that sleep deprivation is a good method for dealing with traumatic experiences because these issues are much more complex and good sleep is necessary for psychological health.

In both phases, in deep sleep and in REM sleep, the brain reworks everything we experienced during the day. It also evaluates everything that is in the intermediate storage in the hippocampus area of the brain. Then all the short-term memories that are judged to be important are moved into long-term memory.

At Zizzz we work for a better sleep.