What Happens to Our Brain When We Sleep?


| LAST UPDATE 09/14/2022

By Daria Appleby
Sleep Types Brain Activity
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Our brain contains an unaccountable number of neurons. As we grow year by year, we are constantly developing. But, it is our brains that stop developing at the age of 25. Until then, we constantly discover new information about our brain functions. This includes how our organ changes its functions when we are asleep.

Our brains are "complex and elaborate." Though some might have a higher IQ than others, our brain is powerful enough to "generate around 25 watts of power - enough to illuminate a lightbulb." That explains our little light bulb moments. Still, understanding how our brain functions when we sleep is a never-ending mystery. If we are not functioning, how is our body operating? Though we are not awake, our brain stays active to keep our bodies operating. While every animal on the planet has shown the capability to sleep, Dr. David Raizen, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, confirmed that sleeping is a "very important function, which has led to its persistence throughout evolution." Research has found we will spend at least one-third of our lives asleep or dozing off. So, as expected, if our sleep is disrupted, this affects the extent of how well we "operate effectively" every day.

Brain Affects Sleep Science
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Raizen expresses that our brain is the dominant organ affected by sleep deprivation. However, there are two types of sleep; rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. Each type of sleep is "associated with particular types of brain waves and specific neuron activity." When experiencing non-REM sleep, our brain waves tend to slow down, the muscles are more relaxed, and our breathing is slower. In contrast, REM sleep heightens our brain wave activity, which, oddly enough, is similar to how the brain operates when we are awake. This would explain why our dreams would be clear, "bizarre," and most active. The chemical acetylcholine "spikes" during these "waking hours," further supporting the theory that it is practical to study before bedtime, helping us remember facts better. Moreover, a substantial amount of sleep contributes to our brain saving new memories and concentrating better. In contrast, a repeated poor sleep routine can severely harm our bodies, such as obesity and depression.

Still, sleep deprivation is as powerful as our survival without food and water. On the other hand, there are still many unanswered questions on how much our brain function affects our lives. This includes questions on how we sleep, which brain centers and chemicals are involved, and how the brain switches from REM sleep to non-REM sleep. For that reason, scientists continue to conduct in-depth research.

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