Thermoregulation as a sleep signalling system

Sleep Med Rev. 2004 Apr;8(2):81-93. doi: 10.1016/S1087-0792(03)00023-6.


Temperature and sleep are interrelated processes. Under normal environmental conditions, the rhythms of core body temperature Tc and sleep propensity vary inversely across the day and night in healthy young adults. Although this relationship has drawn considerable interest, particularly in recent years, it is still not known whether this relationship is causative or merely coincidental. As somnogenic brain areas contain thermosensitive cells, it is possible that the sleep/wake cycle may be directly affected by thermoregulatory changes themselves. That is, that changes in temperature may trigger, either directly or indirectly, somnogenic brain areas to initiate sleep. There is now an emerging body of evidence from both physiological and neuroanatomical studies to indicate that this may indeed be the case. This paper will examine the literature relating to this relationship and propose a model where thermoregulatory changes provide an additional signal to the brain regions that regulate sleep and wakefulness. The model attempts to explain how temperature changes before and after sleep onset act in a positive feedback loop to maintain a consolidated sleep bout.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Wakefulness / physiology