Administration of hormones to humans and animals results in specific effects on the sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) and nocturnal hormone secretion. Studies with pulsatile administration of various neuropeptides in young and old normal controls and in patients with depression suggest they play a key role in sleep-endocrine regulation. Growth hormone (GH)-releasing hormone (GHRH) stimulates GH and slow wave sleep (SWS) and inhibits cortisol, whereas corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) exerts opposite effects. Changes in the GHRH:CRH ratio contribute to sleep-endocrine aberrations during normal ageing and acute depression. In addition, galanin and neuropeptide Y promote sleep, whereas, in the elderly, somatostatin impairs sleep. The rapid eye movement (REM)-nonREM cycle is modulated by vasoactive intestinal polypeptide. Cortisol stimulates SWS and GH, probably by feedback inhibition of CRH. Neuroactive steroids exert specific effects on the sleep EEG, which can be explained by γ-aminobutyric acidA receptor modulation.

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