Introduction and reflections on the comparative physiology of sleep and circadian rhythms

J Comp Physiol B. 2024 Jun;194(3):225-231. doi: 10.1007/s00360-024-01567-z. Epub 2024 Jun 10.


Circadian rhythms and the sleep/wake cycle allows us, and most life on Earth, to function optimally in a dynamic world, adjusting all aspects of biology to the varied and complex demands imposed by the 24-hour rotation of the Earth upon its axis. A key element in understanding these rhythms, and the success of the field in general, has been because researchers have adopted a comparative approach. Across all taxa, fundamental questions relating to the generation and regulation of sleep and circadian rhythms have been address using biochemical, molecular, cellular, system and computer modelling techniques. Furthermore, findings have been placed into an ecological and evolutionary context. By addressing both the "How" - mechanistic, and "Why" - evolutionary questions in parallel, the field has achieved remarkable successes, including how circadian rhythms are generated and regulated by light. Yet many key questions remain. In this special issue on the Comparative Physiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Journal of Comparative Physiology, important new discoveries are detailed. These findings illustrate the power of comparative physiology to address novel questions and demonstrate that sleep and circadian physiology are embedded within the biological framework of an organism.

Keywords: 11-cis retinaldehyde; Circadian; Extraretinal photoreceptors; Eye; Opsin; Photoreceptors; Pineal; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Introductory Journal Article
  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Circadian Rhythm* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Physiology, Comparative*
  • Sleep* / physiology