There's A Creature Out There That Sleeps Just Like Humans

  • Osvaldo Nunez , Design & Trend Contributor
  • May, 02, 2016, 12:49 PM
Scientists have found evidence that brain activity is putting us to sleep.
(Photo : Getty Images/Matt Cardy)

A new study involving sleeping reptiles has found that humans have more in common with them and even dinosaurs when it comes to sleep patterns. The study, published in the journal Science, studied brain activity in lizards through a new method that observed REM and slow-wave sleep patterns.

Dreams occur in humans during REM sleep, a stage of sleep where the body is paralyzed, eyes move rapidly, and heart rate and pressure rise. Slow-wave sleep is the most peaceful process of sleep, hence its name.

The study's co-author, Dr. Gilles Laurent, said that the study suggested that animals began experiencing sleep stages much earlier than anticipated. "The results were indeed surprising, because the prevailing view has been that REM and slow-wave sleep are limited to mammals and birds, excluding non-avian reptiles." According to Dr. Laurent, REM and slow-wave sleep evolved around 100 million years ago.

For the study, the researchers implanted a probe within the forebrain section of five Australian bearded dragons. The probe tracked the brain activity of the reptiles while they slept.

"The dragon's eyes twitch under its lids. An electronic monitor hooked up to its brain shows activity spiking across it. Somewhere inside its reptilian subconscious, a dream may be playing out - of enjoying a satisfying meal or relaxing on a sun-baked stone," said Sarah Kaplan in a report published in the Washington Post.

The researchers noted that the dragon was not just sleeping, but it was dreaming the way humans did.

In a report from the New York Times, Daniel Margoliash noted that the study provided "extremely strong evidence that the patterns of structure of sleep that we've seen in a broad range of species is reflective of something that evolved very early in vertebrate evolution and is shared across many - perhaps all - vertebrates."

Whether or not this means that mammals like birds sleep like lizards is unclear, but it is apparent that lizards do sleep much like humans. 

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