Researchers on Friday said they conducted a statistical analysis on data from more than 60 sleep studies. They looked at sleep time, duration of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, brain size and body size, and devised a mathematical model for how sleep changes during development. There are basically two types of sleep, each tied to specific brain waves and neuronal activity. REM, with the eyes moving quickly from side to side behind closed eyelids, is deep sleep with vivid dreams. Non-REM sleep is largely dreamless. During REM sleep, the brain forms new neural connections by building and strengthening synapses – the junctions between nerve cells, or neurons – that enable them to communicate, reinforcing learning and consolidating memories. During sleep, the brain also repairs the modicum of daily neurological damage it typically experiences to genes and proteins within neurons as well as clearing out byproducts that build up. “Sleep is required across the animal kingdom and is nearly as ubiquitous as eating and breathing,” Van Savage said. “I’d say it is a pillar of human health.”

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