Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) promotes rapid-eye-movement (REM) and non-REM sleep in animals, but there is little direct evidence for a hypnogenic action of GHRH in humans. In the present study, the possible somnogenic effects of intravenous bolus injections of a dose of GHRH eliciting physiological elevations of GH secretion in healthy young men were investigated. GHRH (0.3 micrograms/kg body wt) was given in early sleep [i.e., 1st slow-wave (SW) period], late sleep (i.e., 3rd REM period), and early sleep after sleep deprivation until 0400 h (i.e., 1st SW period). In the absence of sleep deprivation, injection of GHRH in early sleep did not modify SW sleep but increased REM sleep. GHRH administration in the third REM period was followed by a marked decrease of wake and an almost 10-fold increase in SW sleep. When GHRH was administered during the first SW period after sleep deprivation until 0400 h, the duration of wake decreased. Thus GHRH has sleep-promoting effects in young adults, particularly when given at a time of decreased sleep propensity.