REM stands for rapid eye movement. Researchers found that during certain phases of sleep, people's eyes start fluttering very rapidly even though they remain closed. Movements of the eyeballs can be horizontal or vertical. In addition, researchers found that REM sleep is characterized by the production of more alpha and beta waves by the brain, while ordinary sleep produces more theta and delta waves (having a slower frequency). This may sound like a paradox, since beta waves are characteristic of the waking state, while alpha waves are usually produced during a state between waking and sleep.
It was soon discovered that REM phases corresponded to periods of intense dream activity. Dement and Kletman showed that by waking people up immediately following a REM phase, it was possible to obtain very clear and precise accounts of their dreams. Waking people up when they were not in a REM phase often left them with no recollection of their dreams whatsoever.
Based on these findings, it was easy to jump to the conclusion that people dream only during REM phases. Further study, however, proved that this is not the case.
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