Sleep and circadian rhythmicity as entangled processes serving homeostasis

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2024 Jan;25(1):43-59. doi: 10.1038/s41583-023-00764-z. Epub 2023 Dec 1.

Abstract

Sleep is considered essential for the brain and body. A predominant concept is that sleep is regulated by circadian rhythmicity and sleep homeostasis, processes that were posited to be functionally and mechanistically separate. Here we review and re-evaluate this concept and its assumptions using findings from recent human and rodent studies. Alterations in genes that are central to circadian rhythmicity affect not only sleep timing but also putative markers of sleep homeostasis such as electroencephalogram slow-wave activity (SWA). Perturbations of sleep change the rhythmicity in the expression of core clock genes in tissues outside the central clock. The dynamics of recovery from sleep loss vary across sleep variables: SWA and immediate early genes show an early response, but the recovery of non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement sleep follows slower time courses. Changes in the expression of many genes in response to sleep perturbations outlast the effects on SWA and time spent asleep. These findings are difficult to reconcile with the notion that circadian- and sleep-wake-driven processes are mutually independent and that the dynamics of sleep homeostasis are reflected in a single variable. Further understanding of how both sleep and circadian rhythmicity contribute to the homeostasis of essential physiological variables may benefit from the assessment of multiple sleep and molecular variables over longer time scales.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Sleep* / physiology
  • Sleep, REM / genetics
  • Wakefulness* / physiology