Open Access
Sleep and endocrine regulation
Axel Steiger1
Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany.
DOI: 10.2741/1055 Volume 8 Issue 6, pp.358-376
Published: 01 May 2003
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Basic science of sleep)

A bidirectional interaction exists between sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) and endocrine activity in various species including humans. Various hormones (peptides, steroids) were shown to participate in sleep regulation. A keyrole was shown for the reciprocal interaction between sleep-promoting growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) and sleep-impairing corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). Changes in the GHRH:CRH ratio result in changes of sleep-endocrine activity. There is good evidence that the change of this ratio in favor of CRH contributes to aberrances of sleep during aging and depression. Besides of GHRH ghrelin and galanin promote SWS, whereas somatostatin is another sleep-impairing factor. NPY acts as a CRH antagonist and induces sleep onset. Prolactin enhances rapid eve-movement sleep (REMS) in rats. SWS is enhanced in patients with prolactinoma. Other studies on the influence of prolactin of human sleep are lacking. There is a controversy whether CRH promotes REMS. In humans vasocactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) appears to play a role in the temporal organization of sleep, since after VIP administration the NREMS-REMS cycle decelerated. Several neuroactive steroids (pregnenolone, progesterone, allopregnanolone, dehydroepiandrosterone) exert specific effects on sleep EEG via GABAA receptors. Cortisol appears to enhance REMS. Finally gonadal hormones participate in sleep regulation. Estrogen replacement therapy and CRH-1 receptor antagonism in depression are beneficial clinical applications of the basic research presented here.

Share and Cite
Axel Steiger. Sleep and endocrine regulation. Frontiers in Bioscience-Landmark. 2003. 8(6); 358-376.