Length of REM sleep related to body temperature

Length of REM sleep related to body temperature

Length of REM sleep related to body temperature

According to new research from UCLA, the length of REM sleep is related to the animals’ body temperature, with higher body temperatures associated with lower amounts of REM sleep.

Groups of warm-blooded animals with lower body temperatures have more rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, while those with higher body temperatures have a lower amount of REM sleep. This is according to new research by Jerome Siegel, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who said his study suggests REM sleep acts like a “thermostatically controlled brain heater.”

REM sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Behind closed eyelids, your eyes dart from side to side. Mixed-frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in the awake state. Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near-awake levels. Most of your dreams occur during REM sleep, although some may also occur in non-REM sleep. Your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralyzed, preventing you from achieving your dreams. As you get older, you spend less time sleeping in REM sleep.

Siegel says the findings point to a previously unseen link between body temperature and REM sleep, the period of sleep when the brain is highly active. Posted recently in Lancet Neurologythe author of the study is prof. Siegel, who directs the Center for Sleep Research at UCLA’s Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

Birds have the highest body temperature of any warm-blooded or homeothermic animal at 41°C (106°F), while having at least 0.7 hours of REM sleep per day. This is followed by humans and other placental mammals (37°C/99°F), 2 hours REM sleep), marsupials (35°C/95°F, 4.4 hours REM sleep) and monotremes (31°C/88). °F, 7.5 hours of REM sleep).

Brain temperature falls in non-REM sleep and then rises in the REM sleep that usually follows. This pattern “allows homeothermic mammals to conserve energy in non-REM sleep without the brain cooling down so much that it doesn’t respond to threats,” Siegel said.

The amount of REM sleep in humans is neither high nor low compared to other homeothermic animals, “undermining some popular views suggesting a role for REM sleep in learning or emotional regulation,” he said.

Reference: “The Function of Sleep: An Evolutionary Perspective” by Jerome M Siegel, Ph.D., 01 Oct 2022, Lancet Neurology.
DOI: 10.1016/S1474-4422(22)00210-1

Siegel’s research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (HLB148574 and DA034748) and the Medical Research Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He declared that he has no conflicting interests.

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