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Review Article

Exp Neurobiol 2012; 21(4): 141-150

Published online December 30, 2012

© The Korean Society for Brain and Neural Sciences

Stress and Sleep Disorder

Kuem Sun Han1, Lin Kim2 and Insop Shim3*

1College of Nursing, Korea University, Seoul 136-705, 2College of Medicine, Korea University, Seoul 136-705, 3College of Oriental Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Korea

Correspondence to: *To whom correspondence should be addressed.
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The purpose of this study was to review potential, physiological, hormonal and neuronal mechanisms that may mediate the sleep changes. This paper investigates the literatures regarding the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, one of the main neuroendocrine stress systems during sleep in order to identify relations between stress and sleep disorder and the treatment of stress-induced insomnia. Sleep and wakefulness are regulated by the aminergic, cholinergic brainstem and hypothalamic systems. Activation of the HPA and/or the sympathetic nervous systems results in wakefulness and these hormones including corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), cortisol or corticosterone, noradrenaline, and adrenaline, are associated with attention and arousal. Stress-related insomnia leads to a vicious circle by activating the HPA system. An awareness of the close interaction between sleep and stress systems is emerging and the hypothalamus is now recognized as a key center for sleep regulation, with hypothalamic neurontransmitter systems providing the framework for therapeutic advances. An updated understanding of these systems may allow researchers to elucidate neural mechanisms of sleep disorder and to develop effective intervention for sleep disorder.

Keywords: stress, sleep disorders, psychological stress response