The Circadian Control of Sleep

  • Simon P. Fisher
  • Russell G. FosterEmail author
  • Stuart N. PeirsonEmail author
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 217)


The sleep/wake cycle is arguably the most familiar output of the circadian system, however, sleep is a complex biological process that arises from multiple brain regions and neurotransmitters, which is regulated by numerous physiological and environmental factors. These include a circadian drive for wakefulness as well as an increase in the requirement for sleep with prolonged waking (the sleep homeostat). In this chapter, we describe the regulation of sleep, with a particular emphasis on the contribution of the circadian system. Since their identification, the role of clock genes in the regulation of sleep has attracted considerable interest, and here, we provide an overview of the interplay between specific elements of the molecular clock with the sleep regulatory system. Finally, we summarise the role of the light environment, melatonin and social cues in the modulation of sleep, with a focus on the role of melanopsin ganglion cells.


Sleep Circadian Clock gene Melatonin Melanopsin 



The authors would like to thank Laurence Brown for preparation of Fig. 3. The authors work is funded by a Wellcome Trust Programme Grant (awarded to RGF) and a BBSRC project grant (awarded to SNP). SPF was supported by a Knoop Junior Research Fellowship (St Cross, Oxford).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biosciences DivisionSRI International, Centre for NeuroscienceMenlo ParkUSA
  2. 2.Nuffield Laboratory of OphthalmologyJohn Radcliffe HospitalOxfordUK

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