Sleep is regulated by several brain structures, neurotransmitters and neuromodulators. Endocannabinoids (eCBs) are a group of lipids with modulatory activity in the brain and bind mainly to cannabinoid receptors CB1R and CB2R, thereby modulating several brain functions, (memory, mood, food intake, pain perception). Oleoylethanolamide and palmitoylethanolamide belong to the N-acylethanolamides (NAEs) family, another type of active endogenous lipids. They bind to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α but not to CB1R, thereby modulating food satiety, inflammation and pain. Both eCBs and NAEs seem to be regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Our objective is to analyze the experimental evidence published in the literature and to discuss if eCBs and NAEs are actually sleep modulators. Studies suggested 1. eCBs and NAEs are under circadian control. 2. NAEs promote wake. 3. eCBs promote non-rapid-eye movement. 4. eCBs also promote rapid-eye-movement sleep by interacting with melanin-concentrating hormone neurons in the lateral hypothalamus. 5. The pharmacological blockade of the CB1R reduces sleep while increasing wake. 6. eCBs restore sleep in a model of insomnia in rats.
Keywords: 2-AG; Anandamide; Cannabinoid system; Oleamide N-acylethanolamides; Sleep-waking cycle.
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