Sleep function(s) and cerebral metabolism

Behav Brain Res. Jul-Aug 1995;69(1-2):75-83. doi: 10.1016/0166-4328(95)00017-n.


The function(s) of sleep would probably be better understood if the metabolic processes taking place within the central nervous system (CNS) during sleep were known in greater detail. The general pattern of the energy requirements of the brain during sleep is now outlined. Brain energy metabolism dramatically decreases during slow wave sleep (SWS) whereas, during rapid eye movement sleep (REMS), the level of metabolism is similar to that of wakefulness. However, these modifications of the energy metabolism, in good agreement with intracerebral recordings of neuronal firing, do not help in identifying the function(s) of sleep, since they are in line with several theories of sleep function(s) (protection, energy conservation, brain cooling, tissue restitution). On the other hand, several studies of brain basal metabolism suggest an enhanced synthesis of macromolecules such as nucleic acids and proteins in the brain during sleep. However, up to now, these data remain scarce and controversial. As a consequence, the research in the field of the brain metabolism during sleep has now come to a turning point, since the confirmation of sizeable cerebral anabolic processes would provide an outstanding argument in favour of the restorative theory of sleep. In this case, a hypothesis, based on clinical findings and preliminary metabolic data, might be further proposed. The putative biosynthetic processes would not equally benefit all the components of the CNS but would primarily be devoted to the maintenance of an optimal synaptic function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Humans
  • Sleep / physiology*