While sleeping, we’re basically cut off from reality, and that’s why it seems that nothing happens to the body from the moment you close your eyes to waking up in the morning. Yet our brain never stops working, and, well, it may surprise you just how many processes are “running in the background” while you snooze.
#1 Losing a sense of smell
Surprisingly, even the most piquant or sweet scents can’t wake us up because our sense of smell is dulled during sleep. The exact cause is unknown, but it may be due to the loss of contextual stimuli. Even if you sense something sweet-smelling in your dream, it’s just a trick of your brain.
#2 Solving real-life problems
While you sleep, the brain continues to actively think and even solve some problems. This is normal, and it explains the common “just sleep on it” advice perfectly. Your brain is not resting when you sleep, it’s focused on solving problems that you have been facing and bothered by lately.
#3 Being paralyzed for about 20 minutes
During REM sleep, one of the sleep phases, the brain turns off the neurons that are responsible for movement. We need this temporary paralysis for our safety. In this phase we are paralyzed: there’s no tossing and turning, we don’t repeat our actions from dreams in real life. This state lasts for about 20 minutes.
#4 Feeling like you’re falling
About 70% of people experience falling in a dream regularly. Most often, this happens right before you fall asleep or wake up. There are two theories as to why this is happening. The first is sleep disturbance, which is caused by residual energy that manifests itself in random movements. The second that your brain becomes confused ‒ the muscles relax completely during sleep, that's why it may seem as if you are falling. The brain then forces the muscles to “catch” your body.
#5 “Cleaning the cache”
During the day we process so much information that it is almost impossible to remember everything to the smallest detail. As soon as you wake up, the brain immediately begins to absorb all the colors around you, the location of objects, the voices of passers-by when you are walking somewhere, and so on. But this information is completely useless, right? If the brain remembered all of the smallest details, it would become overloaded, and fail to remember some really important things. Luckily, during sleep, all of the "unnecessary files" are “erased”.
#6 Remembering important information
During sleep, the brain moves important information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Sleep is especially important when you are studying: it helps to consolidate the information received for future use. So when some students go to bed early instead of hitting the books the night before the exam, they’re doing the right thing.
#7 Distancing from the real world
When we are in deep sleep, the brain is disconnected from reality. This explains sleepwalking, talking, and moving in your sleep. According to research by American scientists, abnormal sleep behavior most often occurs when the body does not get enough quality sleep. Therefore, sleeping the prescribed 7-8 hours a day is not a piece of friendly advice, but rather a necessity.
#8 Developing creative thinking
Believe it or not, our creativity increases during sleep. Researchers have noticed that while we sleep, the brain picks up distant associations between pieces of information. During the day we don’t notice this. However, in one of the experiments, the participants were able to find a creative solution 33% faster exactly after sleeping.