Although the principle is useful in many contexts, spaced repetition is commonly applied in contexts in which a learner must acquire a large number of items and retain them indefinitely in memory. It is, therefore, well suited for the problem of vocabulary acquisition in the course of second language learning, due to the size of the target language's inventory of open-class words.
Other researchers' theories on additional functions of sleep differ significantly. One older idea is the energy conservation theory. Others claim that REM sleep is needed to "refresh" the brain after the NREM phase, or that REM is needed to prevent stasis of fluids in the eye (Roth Ari-Even et al., 2005).
The siesta habit has recently been associated with a 37% lower coronary mortality, possibly due to reduced cardiovascular stress mediated by daytime sleep. Short naps at mid-day and mild evening exercise were found to be effective for improved sleep, cognitive tasks, and mental health in elderly people.
Many people have a temporary drop in alertness in the early afternoon, commonly known as the "post-lunch dip." While a large meal can make a person feel sleepy, the post-lunch dip is mostly an effect of the circadian clock. People naturally feel most sleepy at two times of the day about 12 hours apartfor example, at 2:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. At those two times, the body clock "kicks in." At about 2 p.m. (14:00), it overrides the homeostatic buildup of sleep debt, allowing several more hours of wakefulness. At about 2 a.m. (02:00), with the daily sleep debt paid off, it "kicks in" again to ensure a few more hours of sleep.
During sleep, especially REM sleep, people tend to have dreams: elusive first-person experiences, which, despite their frequently bizarre qualities, seem realistic while in progress. Dreams can seamlessly incorporate elements within a person's mind that would not normally go together. They can include apparent sensations of all types, especially vision and movement.
People have proposed many hypotheses about the functions of dreaming. Sigmund Freud postulated that dreams are the symbolic expression of frustrated desires that have been relegated to the unconscious mind, and he used dream interpretation in the form of psychoanalysis in attempting to uncover these desires.
Counterintuitively, penile erections during sleep are not more frequent during sexual dreams than during other dreams. The parasympathetic nervous system experiences increased activity during REM sleep which may cause erection of the penis or clitoris. In males, 80% to 95% of REM sleep is normally accompanied by partial to full penile erection, while only about 12% of men's dreams contain sexual content.
John Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley propose that dreams are caused by the random firing of neurons in the cerebral cortex during the REM period. Neatly, this theory helps explain the irrationality of the mind during REM periods, as, according to this theory, the forebrain then creates a story in an attempt to reconcile and make sense of the nonsensical sensory information presented to it. This would explain the odd nature of many dreams.
Using antidepressants, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or alcoholic beverages is thought to potentially suppress dreams, whereas melatonin may have the ability to encourage them.