Anyone who’s ever taken care of a baby knows that babies sleep – a lot. According to this NIH report, “Infants generally require about 16 hours a day”. And these, “Infants…spend about half of their sleep time in REM sleep”, which, as we know, is the stage of sleep where most dreams occur. Adults, on the other hand, sleep fewer hours asleep (7-8 hours) and generally spend less of their sleep time in REM sleep (about 20%).
However, humans are not the only animals that engage in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep? The NIH report also states that, “While most mammals and birds show signs of REM sleep, reptiles and other cold-blooded animals do not.” And just like humans, “A variety of mammals spend far more time in REM sleep during early life than when they are adults.”
And what about birds? Do baby birds spend more time in REM sleep than adults? Recently, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology studied REM sleep in baby Barn Owls. (Click here to see a video of Barn Owls sleeping.) They found that:
1) Like baby humans, the 66 barn owl nestlings were awake approximately half of the time (54.6%, range: 45.3 – 62.9%).
2) Unlike baby humans, who spend 1/3 of their day in REM sleep, the nestlings slept in REM sleep 12.4% of the time (range: 7.7 – 17.6%).
3) Like humans, the “time spent in REM sleep declined as the owlets aged.”
As is true of many articles in science journals, this research “raises several intriguing questions” that require “additional research”. But today, I’m going to leave you with two questions of my own.
Question #1 – We know that owl eyes are large, relative to the size of their skull. They do not have eye muscles because there is insufficient space in their skull. That means, technically, that Barn Owl eyes cannot move during REM sleep.* So should we rename it NEM (no eye movement) sleep?
Question #2 – We know that humans often have trouble with insomnia as they age. And according to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Barn Owls are nocturnal creatures. So if an elderly Barn Owl has insomnia, does that mean it wakes up in the middle of the day?
*Researchers can also detect REM sleep by measuring brain activity with electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, August 7, 14, 21 & 28.
Saturday mornings, August 10 & 24.
Saturday, August 17, 8-10 AM at TowsleyCanyon. Summer Birding. Long summer days present a time to view many bird species and their summer plumage. Learn about some of the birds that live and pass through our local mountains. Beginners are welcome. Binoculars optional. Meet at TowsleyCanyon’s front parking lot. (Click here for a map.)
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has a website with trail maps of our local open spaces.
There’s also a new website for bicycle riders.
Ask Dr. Norm: Do you have questions about the flora, fauna, animals, rocks, etc. in our Santa Clarita Valley? Here’s a place for you to ask your questions.
Dr. Norman Herr, Ph.D., is a professor of science and computer education at CaliforniaStateUniversity, Northridge.
Tell Us About Your Hike: Here’s a new website where you can post pictures, provide feedback and make suggestions about the City of Santa Clarita’s trails and open spaces.
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Source: Santa Clarita News