Sleep has a positive effect on mental and physical health, rejuvenates the body, strengthens immunity – and now it turns out that during sleep, children not only rest, but also learn a lot, for example, learn how their body works and learn to control it.
- Limb tremors during sleep in infants
- Babies’ brains are active during deep sleep
- Babies learn and remember while they sleep
How do scientists know that such important processes occur in children while they sleep? This is indicated by the vibrations of the arms and legs in children in non-rapid eye movement sleep. Researchers from the University of Iowa (USA) observed children during this stage of sleep, the so-called deep sleep. It is characterized by slow eye movements, but at this stage babies also experience tremors in the arms and legs. This phenomenon is unheard of sleeping adults! The researchers set out to take a closer look at what happens to children’s brains during deep sleep.
Limb tremors during sleep in infants
A noticeable increase in the number of limb tremors during A stage of sleep called deep wave sleep (NREM) that occurs in babies from three months of age. Scientists think they may help learn how to coordinate body movements.
– It was a completely surprising discovery, and as far as we know, it was unique to humans and infants – says the Professor. Mark Bloomberg of the University of Iowa’s Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences, one of the study’s authors. “We’ve seen things that we couldn’t explain, based on previous research, the scientific literature, and our long-term observations of small, sleeping mice.
Babies’ brains are active during deep sleep
For the purposes of the experiment, the team of Prof. Bloomberg observed 22 sleeping infants between the ages of one week and seven months. The movements and vibrations of their bodies, not just their eyes, were recorded. At first, as expected, the researchers only noticed the twitching that occurs during REM sleep (called paradoxical or active sleep, where there are rapid eye movements). But then a surprise occurred: the children’s limbs were also observed twitching during NREM sleep (the so-called deep or slow wave sleep).
The vibrations looked exactly the same, says Dr. Greta Sokolow, co-author of the discovery. We didn’t expect to see them at this moment. After all, people and other animals do not usually move during deep sleep.
Since scientists recorded the brainwaves of sleeping children, they were able to measure activity instantly The brain associated with vibration. As expected, they noticed that during deep sleep in infants there was a high frequency of so-called sleep axes: about once every 10 seconds.
Babies learn and remember while they sleep
Sleep spindles are the rapid waves emitted by the brain during non-rapid movement sleep that are not observed during REM sleep. “Sleep spindles provide insight into the relationship between the brain and the motor system,” the study authors explain. “We found that infants’ spindle rates increased significantly from about three to seven months of age and were concentrated along the area of the brain that processes sensory and motor information. At the same time, we observed that sleep and vibration axons were synchronized.”
Dr. Sokolov adds that sleep spindles are closely related to learning and memory. Our findings suggest that by shivering the limbs during the sleep phase that we previously thought was behavioral silence, babies learn about their bodies. The researcher explains that this opens an entirely new avenue of research into the brain-body communication that occurs when babies are asleep.
while prof. Bloomberg concludes: “Our discovery could be a very important step in understanding the contribution of the cerebral cortex to motor coordination,” says the professor. – It turns out that children need to integrate the brain with the body in order for the entire system to be set up and function properly. Not everything relates to each other right after birth. Only after that many important processes occur. We discovered something completely new about how different parts of the brain and body integrate.