The brain is “awake” during sleep
Nikolaev Mikhail/Shutterstock Although it seems like sleep would be time for the brain to rest, there’s actually a lot going on in your noggin when you’re snoozing, which is one of the reasons sleep is important for the brain. “Even when we are sleeping, areas such as the frontal cortex that controls our higher-level thinking and awareness, and the somatosensory cortex that allows us to sense our surroundings, are active,” Dr. Tarawneh says. Studies have shown that even in deep non-REM sleep, our brain is more active than previously thought. Find out why waking up in the middle of the night could mean your brain is in trouble.
Being in a coma isn’t like being asleep
HearttoHeart/Shutterstock In soap operas, people always wake refreshed from comas, like they’ve just had a great night’s sleep—but according to research, this isn’t the case. Comas are a prolonged state of unconsciousness, but nothing like sleep. “Brain wave EEG readings for someone in a coma are very different from those of someone sleeping,” says sleep expert Richard Shane, PhD, creator of the Sleep Easily method. “During a coma, a person does not move, as people in a non-dreaming state do. A person in a coma is unresponsive to his or her environment and cannot be awakened by any stimulation, including pain.” Because of the lack of brain activity in comas, those who awaken may have damage or need to rehabilitation to get their noggin working again. Find out more about what it’s really like to be in a coma.
Amnesia doesn’t cause you to forget who you are
HBRH/Shutterstock OK, so what about that other favorite movie trope of a character suddenly having amnesia and not knowing who they are? According to the Mayo Clinic, amnesia doesn’t usually lead to a loss of self-identity. Instead, there are two kinds: retrograde (the inability to recall past events) and anterograde (the inability to learn new information). A study from the UK found that amnesiacs also may have problems imagining scenarios for the future, because these are often based on past experiences. Another misconception: Severe amnesia is not usually the result of a head injury—and it’s certainly not cured by another one, like in the movies. Learn how to use your brain’s “delete” button to forget new memories.