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Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2009 Dec;36(4):809-29, x. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2009.10.001.

Sleep, hormones, and memory.

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Department of Neuroendocrinology, University of Lübeck, Haus 23a, Lübeck, Germany.


Nocturnal sleep is characterized by a unique pattern of endocrine activity, which comprises reciprocal influences on the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and the somatotropic system. During early sleep, when slow wave sleep (SWS) prevails, HPA secretory activity is suppressed whereas growth hormone (GH) release reaches a maximum; this pattern is reversed during late sleep when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep predominates. SWS benefits the consolidation of hippocampus-dependent declarative memories, whereas REM sleep improves amygdala-dependent emotional memories and procedural skill memories involving striato-cortical circuitry. Manipulation of plasma cortisol and GH concentration during sleep revealed a primary role of HPA activity for memory consolidation. Pituitary-adrenal inhibition during SWS sleep represents a prerequisite for efficient consolidation of declarative memory; increased cortisol during late REM sleep seems to protect from an overshooting consolidation of emotional memories.

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