Muehlbach’s clients give REM sleep elevated status among the sleep stages. “They think of REM sleep as something extra special,” he says. “I would argue that the sleep cycle itself is special.” REM, which takes up about 20 to 25 percent of our sleep, does have some unique traits. It’s physiologically distinct from the other stages: our breathing becomes irregular, our muscles below the head are largely paralyzed (save some twitching), and our brainwaves look similar to the way they do when we’re awake. Of course, our eyes also tend to move rapidly from side-to-side during REM — but they don’t do this the whole time. Your dog is in REM sleep when his paws are jerking and he lets out little barks. REM is also the only stage in which we dream.
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