Awakening from sleep

Sleep Med Rev. 2002 Aug;6(4):267-86. doi: 10.1053/smrv.2001.0202.


Awakening is a crucial event for the organism. The transition from sleep to waking implies physiological processes which lead to a new behavioural state. Spontaneous awakenings have varying features which may change as a function of several factors. The latter include intrasleep architecture, circadian phase, time awake, age, or disordered sleep. Despite its clear theoretical and clinical importance, the topic of awakening (in humans) has received little attention so far. This contribution focuses on major issues which relate to awakening from both basic (experimental) and clinical research. Recent knowledge on neurophysiological mechanisms is reported. The experimental data which provide in the human suggestions on the regulation of awakening are discussed, mainly those concerning sleep architecture and homeostatic/circadian factors also in a life-span perspective, since age is a powerful factor which may influence awakening. Clinical contributions will examine two main sleep disorders: insomnia and hypersomnia. Daytime functioning is shown in insomniac patients and compared to other pathologies like sleep apnea. A final section evokes links between some types of night waking and psychological factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / diagnosis
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / metabolism
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / diagnosis
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / metabolism
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*
  • Thalamus / physiology
  • Wakefulness / physiology*


  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone