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Study: Like humans, spiders dream when they sleep

Do spiders dream? New study could help scientists better understand human sleep
Do spiders dream? New study could help scientists better understand human sleep 02:24

PHILADELPHIA -- It's a question keeping some researchers up at night. Do spiders dream when they sleep? New research recently released could help scientists better understand human sleep.

You never know what this kind of strange research can lead to. The study focused on REM sleep when some humans and animals like dogs can twitch and move when dreams happen.

They may be creepy, but spiders are more like humans than we realize.

A new study from Germany says jumping spiders can doze in a dream-like state with rapid eye movement -- REM sleep, that deepest stage that helps us feel rested and stay healthy.

"We actually see twitching and uncontrolled leg movements, coupled with actual retinal movements," said Daniela Roessler, a behavioral ecologist and the author of the report.

Scientists say studying REM sleep in a wide range of species could lead to a better understanding of how it works and why it exists. It's an important phase of sleep for humans when the most vivid dreams happen, and it's considered important for memory, mental focus and mood.

With spiders, there's no talking to them about dreams so it's an observational study.

"So, I personally do think that they're experiencing visual dreams," Roessler said, "but it will be very difficult to prove that scientifically."

Using night vision, researchers watched jumping spiders attach themselves to silk anchors before getting some sleep.

"They have little bursts of activity throughout the night that reoccur pretty regularly and the durations are also very regular," Roessler said.

So what possibly could spiders dream about?

Ask a zookeeper.

"I would imagine they're going to be dreaming about flies probably," zookeeper Jamie Mitchell said.

Flies are a favorite food for spiders.

The researchers in Germany say this is the first time scientists have seen REM sleep in animals that don't have a spine.

It was published by the National Academy of Sciences.

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