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Behind the sleep (Part 1) What goes on in your brain when you’re asleep?

Kinga Cichewicz 5nzofwxoh88 Unsplash

*Disclaimer*  *This was NOT written by a sleep expert nor a scientist, this is based on researching and reading some online articles. This is not meant to be a accurate representation of brain activity, if you are interested in finding out more please head to the relevant resources linked below*

Ever wonder what goes on inside your brain when you’re fast asleep? Aside from wonderful dreams or terrifying nightmares, today we are going to go dive into what goes on behind the sleep. Read on to find out more!

What is sleep and why do we need it?

Sleep is something we all innately need but what exactly is it?

For starters when we head to sleep we may think that not much goes on in our brains other than well, sleeping and dreaming right? 

You’re not entirely wrong, however there is much more to that than meets the eye. Parts of our brain are rather active during our deep slumber, helping us to restore our energy and get the much needed rest our bodies need. 

During our restful doze, we undergo two phases of sleep: non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Both which your brain and body react differently to. 

We need sleep to survive and continue on with our daily lives but what else does it really help us with?

  • Well being : People are generally at higher risk of developing serious illnesses when they don’t get enough sleep. This is because when we are asleep our body goes through cellular restoration, which is needed to allow cells in our bodies to regrow and repair so that our systems can function normally for us to stay healthy.
  • Growth : During our deep sleep (especially in children and young adults) it supports our growth mentally and physically as the body releases growth hormones.
  • Retaining Memory : Sleep has been linked to converting short term memories into long term memories by getting rid of unnecessary information while we sleep.

What goes on during sleep?

As mentioned before, we phase through two cycles of sleep : (REM) Rapid Eye Movement Sleep and (non-REM) non Rapid Eye Movement Sleep. Let’s get into a bit of what goes on during these two vital phases of sleep.

Our body undergoes four stages of sleep in the two vital phases of sleep, which occurs multiple times through the night and can range from anywhere between 70 minutes to 120 minutes each.

In the first two stages of Non-REM sleep, you will enter light sleep where your heart rate, eye movements and brain waves slow down. In addition to that your body temperature will decrease and your muscles continue to relax even further. 

When you enter stage 3, this is when your deep sleep begins and your eyes and muscles don’t move while your brain waves slow down even more. 

In the fourth and final stage which is where REM sleep occurs, there is an increase in your brain waves and eye movements where your eyes will move quickly from side to side and your heart rate and breathing will also pick up pace. However your body will be temporarily paralyzed so as to prevent you from acting out in your dreams. During this stage is where intense dreaming will occur as well.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading a bit more about what goes on in your brain while you sleep, this is part 1 of 2 for the behind the sleep blog. Do check back next week to read part two!

Sources used for this blog :

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash