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Neuroscience For Kids

Disney Dreaming: Sleep Disorders in Film
no February 28, 2008

Writers of Disney animated films have had a sharp eye on their sleeping pets. A new study published in the journal Sleep Medicine describes how Disney cartoons included characters with sleep disorders.

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD)

Most dreams occur during the REM stage of sleep. During REM sleep, the brain sends messages to the body to paralyze muscles so we can't move. However, in animals with RBD, these messages are interrupted and dreams are acted out. The symptoms of RBD, including facial twitching, movement, and grunting, can be seen in four Disney dogs: no


Nightmares are especially frightening dreams and can cause strong emotional reactions. In Disney films, nightmares affected: no


Sleepwalking can be as simple as getting out of bed and walking around or more complicated such as driving a car. Sleepwalking usually does not occur when someone is dreaming (REM sleep). Rather, this sleep disorder usually occurs during non-REM sleep stages. Sleepwalking can be seen in:

Sleep-Related Epilepsy

Sleep-related epilepsy occurs in people who have seizures only when they are asleep. This disorder can be seen in

Loud Snoring

Several Disney characters snore loudly while they sleep: no

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Excessive daytime sleepiness is a sleep disorder where people feel very tired and drowsy during the day. They often have trouble staying awake and feel that they must take a nap. Disney characters with some symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness include:

Insomnia and Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

People sometimes have a difficult time going to sleep and two Disney characters in three films show this problem: no

The portrayal of various sleep disorders in these early Disney films is especially interesting because many of these movies were created before basic information about the nature of sleep was known. For example, Cinderella, Pluto's Judgment Day, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and other these Disney films were released before the discovery of REM sleep!

References and further information:

Copyright © 1996-2008, Eric H. Chudler, University of Washington