Sleep phases play role in brain memory process, study finds

Among the many functions of sleep is the preservation of the brain’s memories. After all, memories are consolidated during the night’s rest. Although it is not known exactly how this happens, a new study from the University of Pennsylvania, in the United States, reinforces the importance of sleeping well and going through all stages of sleep for the fixation process.

Until recently, scientists believed that different types of memory were recorded separately and at different stages of sleep. Now, after the publication of new studies, science has come to know that it is a process that occurs sequentially, as a whole, and while we sleep at night.

The human being basically goes through two major stages of sleep: the so-called non-REM, which is subdivided into 3 stages, the third being the deepest and characterized by slow waves in the brain; and REM, in which there is intense activity in the gray matter. The phases alternate in a cycle that repeats about five times each night.

During this third, deeper stage, the experiences that were lived by the individual during the day go to the hippocampus, an organ located in the center of the brain. This is a more primitive region, also linked to emotions. It is with their help that you decide what is important to fix.

“That’s why we also sleep to forget everything we don’t need to retain”, says Maíra Honorato, a doctor specializing in sleep at the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein.

Then, in REM sleep, information is sent to the neocortex, a thin covering that covers the outer zone of the brain, responsible for more sophisticated cognitive processes, such as language.

With the help of a model based on algorithms, the American scientists simulated how the brain revisits the most recent data in the slow wave phase of sleep and, later, how it accesses the oldest information in REM sleep. It is in this succession of cycles that the hippocampus teaches the neocortex what it has learned, creating lasting memories.

“The article confirms what studies have already been pointing out”, says the expert. “To consolidate memory, you have to go through all the stages of sleep.”

The formation of memories is not only essential for remembering what is experienced by each individual, but also for learning and developing new skills – from playing an instrument to a new language.

In addition, experts explain that there is no point in recovering the hours lost on the weekend or on vacation. It’s a process that needs to be done daily: hence the importance of following good bedtime habits, with regular bedtimes and staying away from screens before bed.

Source: Einstein Agency

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