"If we wanted to travel to some point in outer space that took 100 years, how could we possibly do it?" said Krystal. "We would have to induce a period of hibernation that would allow a person not to need to function for a period of time in order to get there and survive and return."
By studying the temperature and metabolism relationship of hibernating fat-tailed dwarf lemurs, the researchers found that the animal readily enters REM (rapid eye movement) sleep when hibernating, something that other hibernating mammals do not do, like the much-studied Arctic ground squirrel. During the hibernation of the ground squirrel, studies have shown that they occasionally speed up their metabolism to enter a non-REM sleep. It seems that, like in humans, sleep is extremely important to the ground squirrel that they will expend precious energy to ensure their brains experience sleep during hibernation.
ANALYSIS: Interstellar Travel Is Hard, Why Bother?
Sleep appears "so important to these animals that they arouse out of their torpor, and it's a metabolically expensive thing to do," Krystal said. "There's got to be a good reason for it, and it may not be the sleep, but sleep seems to be linked to the process."