Thank you, I didn't know that utility.
I tried again and kept an eye on htop and systat. As I expected, nothing special to see: disk activity is high (of course), CPU and RAM usage still quite low (I have a reasonably powerful i7 and 16GB RAM) and no swap is used at all.
FFSv2 with log enabled, on a HDD.
LXQt desktop with openbox WM and picom compositor.
Xorg using intel driver in UXA acceleration mode.
What I'm experiencing is not a complete freeze, but rather files and programs taking ages to open or save, Firefox becoming unresponsive, etc., things which should not happen on a machine with comfortable system ressources.