Theories on REM Sleep
The function of REM sleep (and the dreams that often accompany this phase) is unknown. Since the repairing of body cells occurs during non-REM sleep, what could this possibly do? There are many theories on the subject, but we still have no clear answer as to why we go through REM.
- People once thought that REM sleep deprivation could cause insanity. Instead, it can alleviate clinical depression (the deprivation acts like an antidepressant).
- REM sleep is needed, since studies showed that when animals were deprived of REM sleep, they made it up when they got the chance.
- Intense neuronal activity during this phase can help mammals react more quickly when awakened.
- REM sleep may help to preserve memory, but others argue that people who have brain damage preventing REM sleep have normal memory.
- Immaturely-born mammals have a lot of REM sleep and often have the same amount later in life. REM sleep may act like the stimulation that creatures need to start neuronal development.