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Rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep or REMS) is a unique phase of sleep in humans, mammals and birds, characterized by random rapid movement of the eyes, accompanied by low muscle tone throughout the body, and the propensity of the sleeper to dream vividly.
The REM phase is also known as paradoxical sleep (PS) and sometimes desynchronized sleep or dreamy sleep, because of physiological similarities to waking states including rapid, low-voltage desynchronized brain waves. Electrical and chemical activity regulating this phase seems to originate in the brain stem, and is characterized most notably by an abundance of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, combined with a nearly complete absence of monoamine neurotransmitters histamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Experiences of REM sleep are not transferred to permanent memory due to absence of norepinephrine.
REM sleep is physiologically different from the other phases of sleep, which are collectively referred to as non-REM sleep (NREM sleep, NREMS, synchronized sleep). The absence of visual and auditory stimulation (sensory deprivation) during REM sleep can cause hallucinations.[failed verification] REM and non-REM sleep alternate within one sleep cycle, which lasts about 90 minutes in adult humans. As sleep cycles continue, they shift towards a higher proportion of REM sleep. The transition to REM sleep brings marked physical changes, beginning with electrical bursts called "ponto-geniculo-occipital waves" (PGO waves) originating in the brain stem. REM sleep occurs 4 times in a 7 hour sleep. Organisms in REM sleep suspend central homeostasis, allowing large fluctuations in respiration, thermoregulation and circulation which do not occur in any other modes of sleeping or waking. The body abruptly loses muscle tone, a state known as REM atonia.
In 1953, Professor Nathaniel Kleitman and his student Eugene Aserinsky defined rapid eye movement and linked it to dreams. REM sleep was further described by researchers, including William Dement and Michel Jouvet. Many experiments have involved awakening test subjects whenever they begin to enter the REM phase, thereby producing a state known as REM deprivation. Subjects allowed to sleep normally again usually experience a modest REM rebound. Techniques of neurosurgery, chemical injection, electroencephalography, positron emission tomography, and reports of dreamers upon waking, have all been used to study this phase of sleep.