Growth hormone (hGH) secretion was measured during sleep in 10 healthy male subjects isolated from all time cues. HGH concentrations following sleep onset were compared between scheduled sleep episodes (entrainment) and self-selected sleep episodes (free-running). Peak sleep-related hGH values were decreased significantly during free-running. The duration of the first slow wave sleep (SWS) episode and the latency to the first REM sleep episode also decreased significantly during free-running. The latencies from sleep onset to SWS and to peak hGH secretion did not differ between entrainment and free-running. These results suggest that sleep-related hGH secretion begins 'on time' during free-running, but is terminated earlier. Thus, while sleep onset facilitates hGH release, the timing of other stages of sleep such as REM may alter the magnitude of sleep-related hGH secretion.