Why We Nap pp 23-30 | Cite as

Thermoregulation and Control of the Ultradian Wake-Sleep Cycle

  • Pier Luigi Parmeggiani


In this chapter the relationship between temperature and wake-sleep regulation is considered primarily with respect to the ultradian wake-sleep cycle, that is, to the single sequence of wakefulness, synchronized sleep (NREM), and desynchronized sleep (REM) episodes. The issue is whether the influence of temperature on the wake-sleep cycle is either nonspecific, as a result of thermal comfort or stress influences, or specific, as due to the activity of thermoregulatory mechanisms. The experimental evidence (cf. Parmeggiani, 1987) shows that positive (warm) or negative (cold) thermal loads induce selective changes in the wake-sleep cycle. This occurs along with the overall increase in circadian waking or sleeping times characterizing the behavioral responses to thermal stress or comfort, respectively. Actually, such changes consist of selective depression or enhancement of single sleep stages in terms of duration and/or frequency. This shows that specific alterations are elicited by temperature in the mechanisms controlling the wake-sleep ultradian periodicity. In this respect, it is useful to consider whether the behavioral and autonomic thermoregulatory responses are either consistent or inconsistent with the behavioral and autonomic changes of sleep. On this basis, it is possible to understand why positive or negative thermal loads influence the ultradian wake-sleep cycle in so many ways.


Thermal Comfort Thermoregulatory Response North Atlantic Treaty Organization Sleep Episode Thermoregulatory Mechanism 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

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  • Pier Luigi Parmeggiani

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