Mong, J. A., Baker, F. C., Mahoney, M. M., Paul, K. N., Schwartz, M. D., Semba, K., & Silver, R. (2011). Sleep, rhythms, and the endocrine brain: influence of sex and gonadal hormones. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(45), 16107-16116.
While much is known about the mechanisms that underlie sleep and circadian rhythms, the investigation into sex differences and gonadal steroid modulation of sleep and biological rhythms is in its infancy. There is a growing recognition of sex disparities in sleep and rhythm disorders. Understanding how neuroendocrine mediators and sex differences influence sleep and biological rhythms is central to advancing our understanding of sleep-related disorders. While it is known that ovarian steroids affect circadian rhythms in rodents, the role of androgen is less understood. Surprising findings that androgens, acting via androgen receptors in the master “circadian clock” within the suprachiasmatic nucleus, modulate photic effects on activity in males point to novel mechanisms of circadian control. Work in aromatase-deficient mice suggests that some sex differences in photic responsiveness are independent of gonadal hormone effects during development. In parallel, aspects of sex differences in sleep are also reported to be independent of gonadal steroids and may involve sex chromosome complement. This a summary of recent work illustrating how sex differences and gonadal hormones influence sleep and circadian rhythms that was presented at a Mini-Symposium at the 2011 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.