The aim of this study was to investigate, in normal young men, whether gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a reliable stimulant of slow-wave (SW) sleep in normal subjects, would simultaneously enhance sleep related growth hormone (GH) secretion. Eight healthy young men participated each in four experiments involving bedtime oral administration of placebo, 2.5, 3.0, and 3.5 g of GHB. Polygraphic sleep recordings were performed every night, and blood samples were obtained at 15-min intervals from 2000 to 0800. GHB effects were mainly observed during the first 2 h after sleep onset. There was a doubling of GH secretion, resulting from an increase of the amplitude and the duration of the first GH pulse after sleep onset. This stimulation of GH secretion was significantly correlated to a simultaneous increase in the amount of sleep stage IV. Abrupt but transient elevations of prolactin and cortisol were also observed, but did not appear to be associated with the concomitant stimulation of SW sleep. Thyrotropin and melatonin profiles were not altered by GHB administration. These data suggest that pharmacological agents that reliably stimulate SW sleep, such as GHB, may represent a novel class of powerful GH secretagogues.