Graphic of person sleeping on bed.

· Article

What Does Your Brain Do While You Sleep?

· Article

What Does Your Brain Do While You Sleep?

What does your brain do when you sleep? Turns out, quite a lot.


Sleep stages occur in repetitive cycles throughout the night, keeping our brains busy. Each stage of sleep has its own brain activity patterns and plays a role in our physical, mental and emotional health. Brain patterns during REM sleep are more similar to the awake brain than to light or deep, slow-wave sleep.


For adults, getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep is essential to help you body repair and recover. Quality sleep is a natural immune booster, helping our focus, mood and ability to manage stress. Compared to average sleepers, Sleep Number® bed owners enjoy almost an hour’s more sleep per night.*


Infographic detailing brain phases throughout the night including Stage N1, Stage N2, Stage N3, and REM sleep,

Stage N1: Beginning to Fall Asleep

In this stage, the body is falling asleep and begins to experience very light sleep. Brain activity is similar to that of the awake brain.


Stage N2: Light Sleep

This stage of light sleep accounts for 50 percent of the night. The body maintains regular heart rate and breathing while body temperature drops. Stage N2 sleep is key for building motor skills and alertness. The brain establishes neural connections involving muscle memory necessary for learning skills, such as playing an instrument, typing or riding a bike. This stage of sleep also defines the ideal duration for a “power nap” — either 20-25 minutes (before the body enters deep sleep) or 90-100 minutes (after the body has emerged from a cycle of deep sleep). When a person is awakened during one of the stages of deep sleep, it takes a long time to feel alert.


Stage N3: Deep Sleep

During these stages of deep sleep, called slow-wave, delta sleep, the brain slows. Blood pressure drops, breathing slows, muscles relax and the blood supply to the muscles increases. Hormones are released — including 80 percent of the body’s daily allocation of the human growth hormone — helping to restore and repair the body. This phase is critical for the health of the body’s immune function, alertness, tissue growth and recovery from workouts and injuries.


REM Sleep

During REM, dream-state sleep, the brain fires up again and is even more active than when awake. The body will respond to stimulus from the environment during REM sleep. This stage includes the highest level of neural activity as information is relocated from short-term to long-term memory. During REM sleep, the brain is building creativity, complex learning, problem solving and executive functions, including intuition, insight, spatial orientation and perceptual skills. Sufficient amounts of REM sleep can be the difference between being in a good mood or a bad mood and making good decisions versus bad decisions the next day.


So, make sure you give that smart noggin of yours the quality rest it needs each night. This will help you thrive so you can also be your best for those around you.


Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal well-being and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology inside, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.


*Based on self-reported hours of sleep from a general population survey compared to our SleepIQ® data.

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