"For decades, most experts dismissed sleep as a boring, idle time for the brain. What they didn't realize is that while sleeping bodies lie motionless in bed, the brain's neurons continue to buzz and chatter. Only with the 1953 discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and the development of new machines to monitor brain activity did researchers begin to see what, exactly, was going on at night. Suddenly they could watch as the brain moved through predictable cycles of REM sleep--with its sometimes vivid dream imagery--and deeper "slow wave" sleep."
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