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A new function of rapid eye movement sleep: Improvement of muscular efficiency

Cai, Zi-Jian
Physiology & behavior 2015 v.144 pp. 110-115
ambient temperature, dolphins, electroencephalography, eyes, humans, memory, menopause, ostriches, phylogeny, rodents, sleep
Previously I demonstrated that the slow wave sleep (SWS) functioned to adjust the emotional balance disrupted by emotional memories randomly accumulated during waking, while the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep played the opposite role. Many experimental results have unambiguously shown that various emotional memories are processed during REM sleep. In this article, it is attempted to combine this confirmed function of REM sleep with the atonic state unique to REM sleep, and to integrate a new theory suggesting that improvement of muscular efficiency be a new function of REM sleep. This new function of REM sleep is more advantageous than the function of REM sleep in emotional memories and disinhibited drives to account for the phylogenetic variations of REM sleep, especially the absence of REM sleep in dolphins and short duration of REM sleep in birds in contrary to that in humans and rodents, the absence of penile erections in REM sleep in armadillo, as well as the higher voltage in EEG during REM sleep in platypus and ostrich. Besides, this new function of REM sleep is also advantageous to explain the association of REM sleep with the atonic episodes in SWS, the absence of drastic menopausal change in duration of REM sleep, and the effects of ambient temperature on the duration of REM sleep. These comparative and experimental evidences support the improvement of muscular efficiency as a new and major function of REM sleep.