REM Sleep: n. Rapid Eye Movement sleep; the period of sleep characterized by quick movements of the eyes and muscle paralysis
The REM stage of sleep occurs at the end of every cycle. During REM sleep, our eyes move rapidly and randomly. Certain neurons called REM sleep-on cells become active, causing brain activity to reflect that of a waking state. At the same time, neurotransmitters called monoamines stop being released, causing our muscles to stop moving and paralyzing us. The contrast between the immense brain activity and the paralysis of the rest of the body is why this stage is also called paradoxical sleep.
Dreaming occurs during REM sleep. Researchers explain that this is because the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain, tries to interpret the fragments of brain activity to form a story or dream. It has been theorized that REM sleep also plays a role in the cognitive development of infants and in consolidating memory.
- n.p. (2012, July 17). "What Is Rapid Eye Movement Sleep? What Is REM?." Medical News Today. Retrieved from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/247927.php
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2007, May 21). Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. Retrieved February 5, 2013, from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm#dreaming
- Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Neuroscience. 2nd edition. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001. The Possible Functions of REM Sleep and Dreaming. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11121/