What your brain does while you sleep

Scientists and our INDY Neurofeedback team know that our brains do an amazing amount of important work while we sleep. We also know that sleeping is an integral part of our life.

However, a thorough understanding of sleep as it pertains to our overall health is still not entirely known, largely because its functions are incredibly complex.

Here’s what we do know about the function of sleep, according to Scientific American magazine:

  • Sleep reenergizes the body’s cells
  • Clears waste from the brain
  • Supports learning and memory
  • Regulates mood, appetite and even the libido

As we fall asleep, our brains don’t shut down. Instead, they prepare to generate sleep in two distinct stages. The first phase, SWS, is slow-wave sleep.

“Most of our sleep is SWS,” says Leanne O’Neil of INDY Neurofeedback. “SWS shows up on our brain scans as large, slow brain waves. This makes sense, as a sleeping body is relaxed. Breathing is slow and rhythmic. This probably helps our brain and body to recover after all we process during our busy days.”

After the SWS stage, the brain activates REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The purpose of REM sleep remains a puzzle, despite our growing understanding of its biochemistry and neurobiology.

“Through brain scans,” continues O’Neil, “we know that a dreamer’s brain is highly active, while in contrast, our body’s muscles are paralyzed. (This is why we feel we cannot move away from perceived danger when we have a nightmare.) Our body’s breathing and heart rate are often erratic, too.”

Scientists and neurofeedback specialists now know that a small group of cells in the brain stem controls REM sleep. Interestingly, when these cells become injured or diseased, dreamers often don’t experience REM muscle paralysis, which can lead to a serious REM sleep behavior disorder where individuals sleepwalk or act out their dreams, often violently.

Understanding the complex relationship between sleep and the brain is fascinating, especially to us at INDY Neurofeedback. That’s precisely why we do the work we do – helping our clients optimize their brain function to improve their overall health.

 

– the INDY Neurofeedback team

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