Body temperature and sleep: Are they controlled by the same mechanism?

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Simultaneous changes in sleep and body temperature, produced either by lesion or by stimulation of the medial preoptic area (mPOA), have given reasons to suggest that thermoregulation and sleep regulation are controlled by the same set of neurons. The reasons for simultaneous changes in these parameters are discussed in the present paper with a view to explaining the relationship between thermoregulation and sleep regulation. Changes in body temperature and sleep on destruction of the preoptic area (POA) neurons and the sequence of these changes, suggest a separate control mechanism in the mPOA for regulation of sleep and body temperature. Evidence is put forward in the present paper to show that the mPOA is not involved in the downregulation or upregulation of changes in body temperature with alteration in the vigilance state. On the other hand, circadian modulation of body temperature is possibly involved in altering sleep propensity. A clear indication regarding separate control of sleep and body temperature came from the studies in which noradrenergic agents were applied into the mPOA of animals with and without lesion of the noradrenergic fibers projecting to the mPOA. Experiments in which sleep was analyzed after experimental manipulations of ambient temperature and body temperature, including peripheral, core and brain temperature, are presented here to show a close relationship between thermoregulation and sleep regulation. Various theories regarding the regulation of body temperature during slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement sleep are also discussed. The functional integrity of the mPOA may be essential not only for the regulation of body temperature and sleep-wakefulness but even for the homeostatic regulation of energy balance of the body in response to alterations in environmental temperature and sleep-wakefulness.

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