Does the Brain Turn Itself off While You Sleep?

Despite the common belief, your brain doesn't actually shut down when you sleep. In fact, some parts of it are more active than when you're awake, including those portions of the brain that control memory and learning. Though research is ongoing, it's thought that the brain may consolidate memories during sleep. Other studies show that the area of the brain that's used when consciously remembering something, like a person's phone number, is active during sleep. Scientists have also determined that people can learn new but simple things in their sleep, like making an association between smells and sounds.

More about sleep:

  • There are two main types of sleep that people cycle through each night: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM). The former is where dream happen, and the latter is where deep sleep happens. Most people have between 3 and 5 REM cycles a night, and missing out on either REM or NREM sleep can prevent a person from feeling rested.

  • Older people generally spend less time in deep sleep than younger people do. This makes them feel less rested and means that they're more at-risk for sleep disorders, like insomnia.

  • Babies' brains react to the sound of arguing or angry tones even when they're asleep, with the areas related to stress and emotion regulation being the most affected.
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Discussion Comments


My husband had a very bad sleep problem. He sweated while sleeping and when he woke up, his T-shirt would be wet. Because of that, he got cold when he went to the restroom. He changed and went back to sleep and in a little while he is all again wet. This happens many times during the night and in the morning he is all tired. We spoke to doctors, but they found nothing wrong.


I have neighbors who speak loudly. They have two small children, one aged 2 years and one is 5 months. Sometimes I find it unbearable to even sit in the same room with them because they are so loud.

I asked the male neighbor why they are speaking so loudly, and he told me that comes from having to yell to his mother because she was hard of hearing (deaf). It then came to me that if you speak so loud that a deaf person can hear you, can you image how terribly harmful that can be to the ears of your two little children. He told me it's OK, they have to adjust to our normal life. Duh? How is it possible that children are able to adjust to an adult life? It's the most insane and ridiculous thing I ever heard. It still haunts me.

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