Is The Brain Active During Sleep?

Is The Brain Active During Sleep?
Is The Brain Active During Sleep?

Sleep is vital for living a healthy life. Along with a nutritious diet and exercise, sleep plays a key role in promoting a healthy lifestyle. Everybody knows that sleep is essential for energizing our bodies by providing a restful period. However, it offers many other benefits, as well. Sleep enhances your brain performance by clearing waste and supporting learning and memory. It is crucial for regulating appetite and mood, too. Sleep has been a topic of research for a long time, as scientists are fascinated by the relationship between the human brain and sleep. Scientists have conducted several experiments to understand the complexity of sleep. The results canceled the common belief that the brain is inactive during sleep, leading to a new study about brain activity during sleep.

Two Types of Sleep

An average human spends one-third of his life sleeping. Still, most people are unaware of their body’s activities during sleep. There are two types of sleep: REM and non-REM. Throughout your sleep, you cycle through the different stages of REM and non-REM sleep.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM)

As the name suggests, your eyes move rapidly during REM sleep but without generating any visual signals. Generally, REM sleep begins 90 minutes after you fall asleep. It has multiple stages that gradually increase from 10 minutes to a maximum of an hour in the last stage. Since your brain is highly active during REM sleep, it is considered an important sleep stage. Your brain indulges in learning activities that improve memory, as well as increase protein production. It also optimizes memory consolidation, making your brain more likely to develop new skills. While you have intense dreams during REM sleep, your brain still functions as actively as it does during periods of wide-awakeness.

Non-Rapid Eye Movement (Non-REM)

You spend 75 to 80 percent of your sleep in non-REM sleep. It begins as light sleep and progresses into the longest cycle of sleep. Non-REM sleep has a close connection with deep sleep, as the brain transitions into the deepest stage of sleep during its third stage. It is difficult to wake up from the deep phase of non-REM sleep. Your brain produces very slow waves without any eye movement or muscle activity. Since non-REM sleep is responsible for deep sleep, it helps in energizing your body and maintenance. White blood cells are restored for protection and healing, muscle recovery, and growth takes place during this phase.

The Stages of Sleep

Stage 1 begins with non-REM sleep, with a light sleep lasting for a few minutes. Your brain waves slow down, making you transition into sleep from wakefulness. The brain waves slow down, along with your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movement.


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In stage 2, the brain waves continue to reduce, making way for deep sleep. Your body temperature drops, and muscles relax even further. You spend most of your sleep in this stage, instead of the others.


During stage 3, your brain waves become even slower, and you finally enter the deepest level of sleep. It is longer in the first half of the night, but it may be more difficult to wake up in the morning.


Stage 4 consists of REM sleep, which starts after an hour or more of falling asleep. It involves more movement of the eyes, muscles, and increased heartbeat. The symptoms are similar to wakefulness, so your arms and legs muscles become temporarily paralyzed to avoid any actions. As compared to non-REM, dreams are more common during this stage.

Why Do You Need Sleep?

We have all felt exhausted and foggy due to a lack of sleep. Sleeplessness can deprive the brain of learning and storing memory during sleep. It may lead to problems in storing short-term and long-term memory. Memory consolidation is high between most sleep stages, and sleep also helps suppress memory and unlearning. Sleep can have pain-relieving effects while also decreasing anxiety. Studies have shown that sleep deprived individuals experience a spike in anxiety. However, anxiety can lead to sleeping disorders such as insomnia. Thus, it is important to manage your anxiety through therapy, medication or supplementation. Brain plasticity, known as the changes in the structure of the brain, is linked with sleep. It is a known fact that infants need sleep for brain development. Several studies have found that sleep has a similar impact on adults, as well. Poor performance due to sleep deprivation proves these findings. Scientists are learning about the connection of sleep with genes, increased risk of diseases, and much more.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Specialists from have set average hours of sleep based on age groups, but they don’t fit every person. It is just a general idea that is close to most people’s needs. Infants sleep around 16 to 18 hours for successful brain development. Young children need 9 to 10 hours of sleep and adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep to maintain their health. It is important to get the recommended amount of sleep for a properly functioning brain and body.