Purpose of review: The goal of the present paper is to review current literature supporting the occurrence of fundamental changes in brain energy metabolism during the transition from wakefulness to sleep.
Recent findings: Latest research in the field indicates that glucose utilization and the concentrations of several brain metabolites consistently change across the sleep-wake cycle. Lactate, a product of glycolysis that is involved in synaptic plasticity, has emerged as a good biomarker of brain state. Sleep-induced changes in cerebral metabolite levels result from a shift in oxidative metabolism, which alters the reliance of brain metabolism upon carbohydrates. We found wide support for the notion that brain energetics is state dependent. In particular, fatty acids and ketone bodies partly replace glucose as cerebral energy source during sleep. This mechanism plausibly accounts for increases in biosynthetic pathways and functional alterations in neuronal activity associated with sleep. A better account of brain energy metabolism during sleep might help elucidate the long mysterious restorative effects of sleep for the whole organism.
Keywords: Brain energy metabolism; Fatty acid oxidation; Sleep-wake cycle.