Sleep, with its myriad of activities, is a complex brain state that is much more than the absence of wakefulness, the predominant idea until the discovery of rapid eye movement sleep with its characteristics quite different from non- rapid eye movement sleep. As with any bodily activities, things can go wrong in sleep. Thus, there are a variety of disorders specific to sleep, some quite debilitating, even dangerous. Thanks to a considerable amount of research on brain mechanisms regulating sleep over the past few decades, we have learned quite a bit about the physiology and pathophysiology of sleep. This has led to the development of a new medical specialty, sleep disorders medicine.
Our laboratory helped develop an animal model of the of the debilitating, dangerous sleep disorder, Obstructive Sleep Apnea. English bulldogs have the same problems as humans. We also helped with the recognition of REM Behavior Disorder, in which people, usually older men, act out their dreams, which can lead to severe injury to themselves or bed partner. The condition has been studied experimentally in cats and rats.