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In the world of dreams: what really happens to your brain at night

Что происходит когда мы спим

Each time you go to bed, your brain continues to stay awake, doing several important things at once: recharges its “batteries”, fixes in memory what you experienced and learned during the day (including trying to get rid of the worst memories), and finally organizes for you unique “movie shows” - dreams.

We offer to spy on the sleeping mind with the BBC Future and find out what is going on in it at different stages of sleep.

1st hour after going to bed: REM sleep phase

Что происходит когда мы спим

When we begin to fall asleep, the body “turns off” and a kind of paralysis sets in, which provides us with a state of rest. At this stage, the brain puts the body into sleep mode, turning off the activity centers one by one.

But sometimes during this process failures or “glitches” occur, causing extremely unpleasant sensations. For example, “exploding head syndrome” - when, due to a sudden burst of activity in the zones responsible for processing sounds, it seems to you that all brain cells shoot simultaneously, so that an “explosion” occurs in the head.

Or another common disorder: it seems to you that you are not sleeping, but at the same time you cannot move . By the way, both of these syndromes can explain some “supernatural visions,” for example, ghosts and UFOs.

2nd hour: immersion in the deepest sleep

Что происходит когда мы спим
Johann Fussley's famous painting "Nightmare", 1781

If you sleep for only 6 hours for 12 consecutive nights, then you will sleepy "intoxicated" - just like a person with real alcohol in the blood. That is, the language will be braided, problems with coordination and memory will begin.

3rd hour: return to the first, drowsiness stage

Что происходит когда мы спим
“A dream caused by a bee flying around a pomegranate, a second before waking up,” Salvador Dali, 1944

At this time, dreams are usually dreamed. They are often crumpled and chaotic - this is a sign that your brain collects together scattered thoughts and memories, trying to fix them in memory.

This also explains why in a person deprived of sleep, hallucinations begin. When it is not possible to organize memory in a dream, night visions penetrate reality, and it becomes difficult for a person to separate one from another.

5th hour: exit from the deep phase, light sleep

Что происходит когда мы спим

It's time for sleepwalkers walking in a dream. Somnambulism is rare and mainly in young people with mental disorders. But it can also be inherited: the likelihood that a person will be a sleepwalker is 10 times higher if one of his closest relatives walks in a dream.

Lunatics often speak in a dream, but are not able to answer you and generally conduct a dialogue. Usually they don’t remember what they did and what they said in a dream.

6th hour: the deepest slowest sleep

This is the most important hour for the memory to work perfectly, and one of the main reasons why you need to sleep at all: the slow fluctuations in the electrical activity of the brain help to unify and organize the memories of the past day. In addition, in a dream it is easier to survive unpleasant and painful moments and, as they say, “clear your head”. No wonder there is a proverb "morning is wiser than the evening."

7th hour: again a quick dream with dreams

Что происходит когда мы спим
Engraving by Francisco Goya "The Dream of Reason Gives Beasts", approx. 1799

With the passage of night, the phases of REM sleep are becoming longer, so the dreams that are seen in the morning are best remembered. And then nightmares are more likely.

After 8 hours of sleep

Что происходит когда мы спим

A full night's sleep helps improve mood and strengthen memory. In theory, you should wake up after the next easy stage of sleep - then it will be easier for you to get up and you will feel cheerfulness and freshness.

On this topic:

15 interesting things that happen to you in a dream