How the brain protects our dreams

How the brain protects our dreams

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The dreaming brain hides the outside world

The brain has a mechanism by which it protects dreams from external influences. An international sleep research team discovered this in a current study. The researchers suspect that the protective function should prevent the REM sleep phase from being interrupted.

French and Australian scientists showed that the dreaming brain incorporates or filters out information from the real world into the dream worlds. The researchers see this as a protective mechanism that is designed to prevent a person from being torn from their dreams by disturbing noises or other factors. The results of the study were recently presented in the "Current Biology" journal.

Dreams mainly take place during REM sleep

As we dream, we invent living worlds that are completely contrary to the nightly silence of our bedroom. It is usually rather unusual for elements of our current environment to play a role in dreams. For example, you don't dream that you are lying in bed and sleeping.

Sleep in the morning hours in particular is rich in so-called REM sleep phases (rapid eye movement). REM sleep, in which the eyes move, is a particularly intense and intense dream. During this phase, the brain shows similar brain activity as when awake. Instead, the body is almost paralyzed.

Sleep stories from the sleep laboratory

The research team examined the REM sleep phase more closely in 18 participants during the morning sleep in a sleep laboratory. Stories were played to the sleepers while they slept. The narratives were recorded partly in an understandable and partly in an incomprehensible language. The brain activity of the participants was recorded by an electroencephalogram, which was combined with the technique of machine learning.

Filter functions in dreams

The evaluation showed that the brain gives priority to meaningful language during light sleep, just as when awake. In contrast to the waking state, the understood language is actively filtered out during the REM sleep phase. The sleeping brain perceives the sounds of the outside world, evaluates them and amplifies or suppresses them, depending on the situation.

Our brain protects our dream worlds

The team believes that through this mechanism the brain is able to protect the dream phase. This underlines the importance of dreaming. The researchers emphasize that dreams are important for emotional balance, but also for processing learning processes. (vb)

More about dreams

You can find further information on the topic of dreams in the articles:

  • Dream: Why people dream
  • Interpret dreams - dream interpretation: history, methods and tips,
  • Nightmares - causes, meaning, topics and help.

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • French National Center for Scientific Research: The dreaming brain tunes out the outside world (published: 14.05.2020),
  • Matthieu Koroma, Celia Lacaux, Thomas Andrillon, u.a .: Sleepers Selectively Suppress Informative Inputs during Rapid Eye Movements; in: Current Biology, 2020,

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