Scientists Able to Induce REM Sleep
A team of scientists in Massachusetts has been able to trigger REM sleep in mice by shining a light directly onto selected brain cells or neurons.
Using a technology called optogenetics, the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School first inserted a a protein found in algae into the neurons they wanted to test so that they would be more responsive to light activation. Then, by shining a light on these light-sensitive neurons, they found they could increase the number REM sleep episodes in mice. The duration of the REM sleep episodes, however, could not be controlled.
Many drugs and sleep aids have not been able provide the same benefits humans get from natural sleep. But using techniques such as light activation may be a key development in finding ways to induce more natural sleep in humans.