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Why do our eyes move when we sleep? © Getty Images

Why do our eyes move when we sleep?

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

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.

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Alice is a Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths. She has contributed to several diverse research areas, including the longitudinal associations between sleep and psychopathology, behavioural genetics, sleep paralysis and exploding head syndrome. In addition to her scientific contributions she also excels in the public engagement of science. She has published two popular science book (Nodding Off, Bloomsbury, 2018 and Sleepy Pebble, Nobrow, 2019). She regularly contributes articles to the media and has had her work published in outlets including the Guardian, GQ UK, Sud Ouest, Slate Fr, Independent.


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