Why do our eyes move when we sleep?

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, occurs during around 20-25% of an adults nightly sleep.

23rd March 2017
Why do our eyes move when we sleep? (Getty)

Asked by: Elena Holden, London

Our sleep can be split into two main stages – rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. It is during REM sleep that our eyes dart about. This is also the stage of sleep during which we are most likely to dream. The movement of our eyes is due to specific brain activity that is characteristic of this stage of sleep.

Research suggests that eye movements may allow us to change scenes while we are dreaming. Scientists found that the neuronal activity following eye movements during REM sleep resembled that seen when people are shown or asked to remember an image when they are awake. 

 


Get more fascinating Q&As from BBC Focus magazine by following @sciencefocusQA