What happens to your subconscious when you sleep?

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question ‘’What happens to your subconscious when you sleep?’’ We will analyze brain activity during sleep and all the processes that the brain carries out while we sleep.

What happens to your subconscious when you sleep?

When we sleep, our subconscious controls our heart rate, circulation, and digestion. In addition, the brain performs different activities related to cognitive performance.

When we sleep, we are not aware of the world around us. However, at this time, a large number of phenomena essential to our health, both physical and psychological, occur. Sleep is not simply a rest, but it is an active state, which brings us great benefits.

Despite this, even today we can find many people who believe that sleeping does not provide any benefit. However, sleep is an absolutely necessary activity to “recharge batteries” and face the new challenges that are going to be presented to us the next day and that we will have to face.

What’s the subconscious activity?

One of the most complex questions in neuroscience today is: when do you lose yourself in conscious phenomenon?

In this sense, the scientist Kristof Koch, president of the Allen Institute of Neuroscience in Seattle, describes physiological situations such as deep sleep and other pharmacological situations such as general anesthesia as states of suspension of consciousness.

Consider the slightest dream with functions similar to conscious wakefulness. For example, in REM (rapid eye movement sleep with very vivid dreams and easy awakening) electrical parameters, activity and glucose consumption are recorded, even above those of wakefulness. In general, researchers on this topic consider light sleep as an active brain; similar to that of consciousness.

Consciousness seems to be lost and regained every day during sleep, and it can also be temporarily abolished by some drugs or, temporarily or permanently, by brain damage. Each of these cases involves different changes in brain functions, behavior and neurochemistry.

What happens in our brain when we sleep?

Starting with the invention of the electroencephalogram (EEG), in 1929, they began to study the differences in brain function when we are awake and when we are asleep. Sleep is organized in different cycles throughout the night, where approximately each cycle lasts about ninety minutes, so we will have several cycles at all times of sleep, depending on the hours we sleep.

Our brain presents variations in electrical activity depending on the time of day in which we are. Between wakefulness and sleep, there is a transitional state, which will produce drowsiness. From this point on, we move into the light sleep phase, or phase 1, which is a short transition between alert and phase 2 sleep.

If we have a good quality of sleep, this phase will be short in time and will quickly move on to the next phase. Phase 2 is defined because we lose consciousness with the outside world and at this time it would take more stimulation than in the previous phase to wake up the person. In phase 3 and 4, we enter the deepest levels of sleep.

The brain is at rest and the relaxation of the muscles is intensified. It is the key moment to achieve the necessary physical recovery]. Already in the fifth phase, known as REM sleep, the brain is highly active

But during this stage our brain is not completely disconnected and is still more active than you may think. These are the 9 things your brain does while you sleep:

Clean up the ‘garbage’

One of the things that your brain is dedicated to during the hours of sleep is to carry out a cleaning of harmful particles or waste that can accumulate in the body. A 2013 study in mice from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that waste disposal systems in the brain are activated during sleep.

Cerebrospinal fluid is pumped faster throughout the brain while you sleep and works by removing waste products, such as molecular waste products that brain cells produce and toxic proteins that can lead to dementia over time.

Retain what you learned in the day

But the thing does not end there, when we are immersed in the REM phase, processes such as memory consolidation and learning take place.

A recent study published in the journal Science Advances, states that the rapid or REM sleep phase turns experiences into lasting memories and abilities in the brain.

This is because the brain needs to carry out a series of processes to synthesize and secrete certain substances in certain areas. Processes that are incompatible with the activity that the brain has during wakefulness.

In addition, during sleep the neurons of the hippocampus, the place where the information we receive is stored, synchronize to sample all the connections and organize them. Thus, new and useful information is integrated into our memory.

It blocks you from ‘acting out’ your dreams

The brain causes the body to remain paralyzed while we sleep. In the deepest stage of sleep, stage 4, the part of your brain that is responsible for transmitting nerve impulses through the spinal cord sends a message to turn off motor neurons, causing temporary paralysis of about 20 minutes.

Why? To prevent you from hitting or representing your dreams physically and causing you harm. If you are one of those who kick during sleep or get up and walk around the house, then you may have a sleep disorder.

Recharge batteries

One of the things that the brain does while we sleep is recharge our energy. Your brain and body need to sleep through the night to be ready for the next morning and if this is not the case, you will not only be more tired when you wake up.

This also explains why you overeat when you don’t get enough sleep. Energy deprivation will prompt your brain to seek out high-calorie, fast-energy foods, as it has not been able to charge its batteries properly during sleep.

Improve your movements

While you sleep, your brain makes you better at dancing and sports. According to research during REM sleep, your brain solidifies information related to physical tasks, incorporating essential movements in your temporal lobe.

Once the information reaches your temporal lobe, the action will begin to be something automatic that you do not have to reflect to carry out. As James B. Maas, PhD, sleep scientist at Cornell University says. “If you want to improve your golf moves, sleep more.”

Take decisions

One of the actions our brain performs during sleep is to help us make decisions. According to a study published in the journal Current Biology, the brain processes difficult problems during sleep, helping you make a better decision after you wake up.

Thus, everything seems to indicate that by sleeping deeply we stimulate our ability to combine ideas in novel ways. This happens because neurons bond and reorganize.

We have all found ourselves in the situation of not stopping thinking about a problem or concern, and feeling a feeling of frustration because we cannot find the solution. And the next day, spontaneously, the light bulb lights up and everything fits.

Helps you keep the correct timeline

The brain reproduces memories of your daily tasks and helps restore the order in which they occurred. This happens during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase. It is as if we were watching a movie that is taking place during our sleep. In addition, memories are organized so that when you look for that information, the brain knows where it is.

Lack of sleep does not allow memories to be classified or archived and that is why you forget or take time to remember them.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, abnormal sleep activity increases with sleep deprivation, so be sure to get the necessary seven to eight hours if you start waking up on the kitchen floor.


There are several studies that indicate that the act of dreaming stimulates our creativity, since it improves memory allowing us to combine ideas in a new way, in addition to that a deep sleep improves and stimulates the imagination.

How many of us have woken up and looked for a notebook or cell phone wanting to write down the dream we just had. Because let’s face it, dreaming is one of the most intriguing and special moments of our life.

Various artists, painters and writers have pointed out that their works have arisen from a dream, while they were sleeping. And it is not about finding hidden meanings, simply when we dream our mind is capable of creating alternate realities that we would hardly have imagined while awake.

When we sleep, our brain continues to work and its performance increases, since memory stores recent information and links it with old memories, for this reason on many occasions we have a greater solvency to solve problems.

So, what happens to your subconscious when you sleep?

Although we are not aware of it, the brain continuously scans the environment in search of useful information; it collects data non-stop and accumulates it so that it can later be used. And while we sleep, that information capture stops and the brain is dedicated to processing everything that it has acquired during the day.

It combs the recently formed memories, analyzes and synthesizes them, discards those that it considers irrelevant, and enhances, reinforces and classifies those that may be useful to us the next day.

However, how this task is carried out remains a mystery to neuroscience. We know that memories are formed by establishing connections between several hundred, thousands or even millions of neurons, creating patterns of activity. Those patterns, when reactivated, lead to that memory

However, despite the fact that a good rest is an essential need of the body, sometimes we tend to sleep less hours than is desirable. Work, stress, social activities manage to scratch minutes of sleep.

And perhaps we are not aware of it, but sleeping less than what the body requires can lead to problems in the short and long term because we stress our biology, which is not prepared to face a sleep deficit. In fact, we are the only animal that sleeps less than it voluntarily needs.

Now that you know all the actions that our brain carries out while we sleep, you should be more aware of the importance of giving our body the necessary hours and the quality of sleep it requires.

FAQS: What happens to your subconscious when you sleep?

Can your subconscious hear when you are asleep?

Yes, various studies suggest that when we are asleep our subconscious is capable of hearing and processing information.

What happens when you listen to affirmations while you sleep?

The brain is able to hear and process information while we are asleep. If you hear affirmations during the night, you will feel positive when you wake up.

What happens to your mind when you sleep?

When we are asleep, the brain cleanses the nervous system, creates memories and fixes learning.

Can your subconscious wake you up?

Yes! If you have activities to do, your brain is alert not to fall asleep. How many times do you know that you cannot fall asleep, you set the alarm at 7:00 and you wake up at 6:55?

Is your subconscious always right?

The subconscious is powerful. It processes and organizes information that we may not even be aware of. However, it is possible that your brain has captured information in the wrong way and your subconscious interprets it differently.

In this brief guide we answered the question ‘’What happens to your subconscious when you sleep?’’ We analyzed brain activity during sleep and all the processes that the brain carries out while we sleep.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


Miyauchi, S., Misaki, M., Kan, S., Fukunaga, T., & Koike, T. (2009). Human brain activity time-locked to rapid eye movements during REM sleep. Experimental brain research, 192(4), 657-667.

Hobson, J. A. (2005). Sleep is of the brain, by the brain and for the brain. Nature, 437(7063), 1254-1256.

Schwartz, S., & Maquet, P. (2002). Sleep imaging and the neuro-psychological assessment of dreams. Trends in cognitive sciences, 6(1), 23-30.