Sleep regulation involves hormonal, neurological, and environmental factors.
The cycle of sleep and wakefulness is regulated by the brain stem, thalamus, external stimuli, and various hormones produced by the hypothalamus.
Some neurohormones and neurotransmitters are highly correlated with sleep and wakeful states. For example, melatonin levels are highest during the night, and this hormone appears to promote sleep.
Adenosine, a nucleoside involved in generating energy for biochemical processes, gradually accumulates in the human brain during wakefulness, and decreases during sleep.
Adenosine is associated with sleep patterns and responses to sleep deprivation. Researchers believe that its accumulation encourages sleep.
The stimulant properties of caffeine are attributed to its negating the effects of adenosine, but the role of adenosine is far from proven.
The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus generates its own rhythm. In the presence of light it encourages the pineal gland to produce melatonin.
Subcoerulear nucleus, a cluster of neurons adjacent to the locus coeruleus on the sides of the pons, and Magnocellular nucleus in the medulla oblongata are involved in REM atonia.
Locus coeruleus, a small region of pons, contains neurons, secreting noradrenalin, serotonin, responsible for initiating REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep after a period of slow-wave sleep.
Nucleus gigantocellularis, clusters of neurons in the pons, is generating PGO spike (pontogeniculo-occipital spike, brief high-amplitude EEG (electroencephalography) wave, representing an alerting response, occurring spontaneously during REM sleep in the pons, similar eye-movement potential).
Polysomnography is the simultaneous recording of several physiological processes, as EEG and EOG (electrooculogram) activity, in a sleeping person.
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