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Free Content The ontogeny of mammalian sleep: a reappraisal of alternative hypotheses

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Newborn mammals spend as much as 90% or more of their time in a sleep state characterized by frequent twitches, rapid eye movements (REMs), and irregular respiratory cycles. These motor and respiratory patterns resemble the phasic motor/respiratory components of adult REM sleep, and as a consequence, this sleep state is traditionally viewed as an immature form of REM sleep. An alternative view is that a significant portion of what has been called REM sleep in these species is a form of spontaneous activity typical of the immature nervous system. In this review, we compare and contrast these two opposing views about the ontogenetic origins of REM sleep, and review the evidence most often cited to support the idea that REM sleep is present in newborn altricial mammals. Critical review of this evidence indicates that REM sleep may not be present at birth in these species; rather, it appears that all mammals early in development exhibit spontaneous, dissociated activity that progressively becomes organized into the distinct states of REM and non-rapid eye movement sleep.
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Keywords: active sleep; neonatal sleep; ontogeny; postnatal

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience, Philadelphia, PA, USA and 2: Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA

Publication date: 2003-03-01

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