Sleep and wake are fundamental behavioral states whose molecular regulation remains mysterious. Brain states and body functions change dramatically between sleep and wake, are regulated by circadian and homeostatic processes, and depend on the nutritional and emotional condition of the animal. Sleep-wake transitions require the coordination of several brain regions and engage multiple neurochemical systems, including neuropeptides. Neuropeptides serve two main functions in sleep-wake regulation. First, they represent physiological states such as energy level or stress in response to environmental and internal stimuli. Second, neuropeptides excite or inhibit their target neurons to induce, stabilize, or switch between sleep-wake states. Thus, neuropeptides integrate physiological subsystems such as circadian time, previous neuron usage, energy homeostasis, and stress and growth status to generate appropriate sleep-wake behaviors. We review the roles of more than 20 neuropeptides in sleep and wake to lay the foundation for future studies uncovering the mechanisms that underlie the initiation, maintenance, and exit of sleep and wake states.
Keywords: MCH; NREM; REM; feeding; hypocretin; local sleep; stress.