Neurobiology of sleep (Review)

Exp Ther Med. 2021 Mar;21(3):272. doi: 10.3892/etm.2021.9703. Epub 2021 Jan 25.


Sleep is a physiological global state composed of two different phases: Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The control mechanisms of sleep manifest at the level of genetic, biological and cellular organization. Several brain areas, including the basal forebrain, thalamus, and hypothalamus, take part in regulating the activity of this status of life. The signals between different brain regions and those from cortical areas to periphery are conducted through various neuromediators, which are known to either promote wakefulness or sleep. Among others, serotonin, norepinephrine, histamine, hypocretin (orexin), acetylcholine, dopamine, glutamate, and gamma-aminobutyric acid are known to orchestrate the intrinsic mechanisms of sleep neurobiology. Several models that explain the transition and the continuity between wakefulness, NREM sleep and REM sleep have been proposed. All of these models include neurotransmitters as ligands in a complex reciprocal connectivity across the key-centers taking part in the regulation of sleep. Moreover, various environmental cues are integrated by a central pacemaker-located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus-which is able to connect with cortical regions and with peripheral tissues in order to promote the sleep-wake pattern.

Keywords: NREM sleep; REM sleep; neurobiology; neuromediators; sleep.

Publication types

  • Review