Timing of REM sleep is coupled to the circadian rhythm of body temperature in man

Sleep. 1980;2(3):329-46.


Ten male subjects were studied for a total of 306 days on self-selected schedules. Four of them developed bedrest-activity cycle period lengths very different from 24 hr (mean = 36.8 hr) despite the persistence of near-24-hr oscillations in other physiologic functions, including that of body temperature (mean = 24.6 hr). The percentage of sleep time spent in REM sleep varied significantly with the phase of that near-24-hr body temperature cycle. The peak in REM sleep propensity (RSP) occurred on the rising slope of the average body temperature curve, coincident with the phase of peak sleep tendency. This was associated with a significantly increased REM episode duration and shortened REM latency (including sleep-onset REM episodes), but without a significant change in the REM-NREM cycle length. We conclude that there is an endogenous circadian rhythm of REM sleep propensity which is closely coupled to the body temperature rhythm and is capable of free-running with a period different from both 24 hr and the average period of the sleep-wake cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Temperature*
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep Stages
  • Sleep, REM*
  • Wakefulness