Lizards sleep in stages, claims new study

April 29, 2016 | By Garrett Montgomery More

Lizards sleep in stages, according to a new study. German scientists have discovered that lizards known as the Australian bearded dragons sleep in two stages and are capable of dreaming.

Australian bearded dragons

According to German researchers, lizards sleep in stages and even have dreams – about insects and their natural habitats. The study on lizards’ sleeping patterns was led by neuroscientist Gilles Laurent, director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, was published in the journal Science.

Have you ever wondered how do lizards sleep? Well, experts in a lab in Germany, who might have spent countless sleepless nights pondering on the matter, studied five lizards known as Australian bearded dragons to get an answer. The researchers learned that much like human beings, bearded dragons, sleep in different stages.

Electrodes implanted in the lizards’ brains showed that they sleep in slow-wave sleep or deep sleep and in another pattern called rapid eye movement, or REM. Slow-rave or deep sleep is described as followed:

“This period of sleep is called slow-wave sleep because the EEG (Electroencephalography (EEG) is an electrophysiological monitoring method to record electrical activity of the brain) activity is synchronized, producing slow waves with a frequency of less than 1 Hz and a relatively high amplitude. The first section of the wave signifies a down state, which is an inhibition period in which the neurons in the neocortex are silent.”

Moreover, REM, also known as paradoxical sleep (PS) or desynchronized sleep, is explained below:

“Rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep, REMS) is a unique phase of mammalian sleep characterized by random movement of the eyes, low muscle tone throughout the body, and the propensity of the sleeper to dream vividly.”

It is believed that the reptiles have dreams about their recent activities, according to Mr. Laurent, who stated:

“If you forced me to speculate and to use a loose definition of dreaming, I’d speculate that those dreams are about recent notable events: insects, maybe a place where there are good insects, an aggressive male in the next terrarium, et cetera,”

Laurent went on to reveal:

“If I were an Australian dragon living in Frankfurt, I’d be dreaming of a warm day in the sun.”

Until now, only mammals, certain vertebrates, and birds were known to experience these stages of sleep. The discovery also suggests the sleep traits emerged far earlier than previously suspected in the common evolutionary ancestors of the three groups.

Many say that the study will help scientists understand more about the purpose and mechanisms of sleep both in humans and in animals.

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