Rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep cycle is probably the best known of the various stages of sleep. REM is the period of sleep when the most dreams occur and is characterised by eye twitching, from whence it gets its name. REM sleep in adult humans usually occupies around 20–25% of sleep time. REM sleep normally occurs closer to the morning, though during a normal night of sleep, most people will usually experience about four or five periods of REM sleep; they are quite a lot shorter at the beginning of the night and become increasingly longer near the end.
REM sleep was first studied in 1953 using continuous brain recording scans. REM sleep seems to play an important role in aspects of human memory, though these findings are very much up for debate and some sleep scientists hotly deny them.
While dreams do occur in other stages of sleep they are not as memorable or as vivid as those in REM. Most REM dreams have convoluted and bizarre plots and can often seem like they last a long time (though they only really last seconds at most), while non-REM dreams are generally far more ordinary and even repetitive.
The eye movements characterised by the stage actually correspond with what is happening in the dream, like the sleeper is following the dream.
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