Reciprocal interactions between the GH axis and sleep

Growth Horm IGF Res. 2004 Jun:14 Suppl A:S10-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ghir.2004.03.006.


For more than 30 years, growth hormone (GH) has been observed to be preferentially secreted during deep, slow-wave sleep (SWS). However, the mechanisms that underlie this robust relationship that links anabolic processes in the body with behavioral rest and decreased cerebral metabolism remain to be elucidated. Current evidence indicates that GH secretion during the beginning of sleep appears to be primarily regulated by GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) stimulation occurring during a period of relative somatostatin withdrawal, which also is associated with elevated levels of circulating ghrelin. Apparently, two populations of GHRH neurons need to be simultaneously active to stimulate, in a coordinated fashion, SWS and pituitary GH release. Pharmacological interventions that are capable of increasing the duration and/or the intensity of SWS such as oral administration of gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), also increase the rate of GH release. Because the normal negative feedback exerted by GH on central GHRH is inoperative in patients with GH deficiency, it is possible that the decreased energy levels and fatigue often reported by GH-deficient adults partly reflect an alteration in sleep-wake regulation. Preliminary data from a sleep study of adults with GH deficiency using wrist actigraphy for 6 nights at home and polysomnography in the laboratory indeed show decreased total sleep time and increased sleep fragmentation in GH-deficient patients as compared with normal controls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Human Growth Hormone / blood
  • Human Growth Hormone / deficiency
  • Human Growth Hormone / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Quality of Life
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / drug therapy
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Wakefulness


  • Human Growth Hormone