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Regulation of Sleepiness: The Role of the Arousal System

Marija Bakotić1 / Biserka Radošević-Vidaček1

Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Zagreb, Croatia1

This content is open access.

Citation Information: Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology. Volume 63, Issue Supplement 1, Pages 23–34, ISSN (Print) 0004-1254, DOI: 10.2478/10004-1254-63-2012-2137, May 2012

Publication History

Published Online:
2012-05-01

Regulation of Sleepiness: The Role of the Arousal System

Sleepiness is a widespread phenomenon in the busy industrial countries, and many studies have identified its significant negative impacts on individuals and society. Particularly important are the data that associate sleepiness with the risk of accidents at workplace and in transport, pointing to shift workers as the most vulnerable population. It is generally accepted that two basic physiological processes regulate sleepiness: homeostatic and circadian rhythmic processes. Recent research has proposed the third component regulating sleepiness, that is, the wake drive or the arousal system. The role of the arousal system in regulating sleepiness has partly been addressed by the studies of the pathophysiology of insomnia, which is often described as a disorder of hyperarousal. Experimental and correlational studies on the relation between sleepiness and arousal in good sleepers have generally indicated that both physiological and cognitive arousal are related to the standard measures of sleepiness. Taking into account the role of the arousal system in regulating sleepiness widens the possibilities for the management of sleep disorders and could also help in solving the problem of excessive sleepiness at work and the wheel.

Uloga aktivacijskoga sustava u regulaciji pospanosti

Pospanost je raširena pojava u industrijskim zemljama i njeni negativni učinci na pojedince i društvo ustanovljeni su u brojnim istraživanjima. Od posebne su važnosti podaci koji upućuju na to da pospanost povećava vjerojatnost nesreća na radu i u prometu, što je naročito izraženo u populaciji smjenskih radnika. Općenito je prihvaćeno da pospanost reguliraju dva temeljna fiziološka procesa, od koji se jedan odnosi na homeostazu spavanja, a drugi na cirkadijurno funkcioniranje organizma. Nedavno objavljeni modeli pospanosti predložili su uključivanje nagona za budnošću, odnosno razine aktivacije, kao trećeg čimbenika koji sudjeluje u regulaciji pospanosti. Ideje o važnosti aktivacijskog sustava u regulaciji pospanosti dijelom su proizašle iz ispitivanja patofiziologije nesanice koja se često opisuje kao poremećaj pretjerane pobuđenosti. Eksperimentalna i korelacijska istraživanja odnosa između pospanosti i aktivacije kod dobrih spavača općenito su pokazala kako su fiziološka i kognitivna aktivacija povezane sa standardnim mjerama pospanosti. Uvažavanje aktivacijskog sustava u regulaciji pospanosti otvara šire mogućnosti za rješavanje problema sa spavanjem te bi također moglo pomoći u rješavanju problema pretjerane pospanosti u različitim radnim okruženjima i prometu.

Keywords: circadian rhythms; insomnia; shift work; sleep homeostasis; wake drive

Keywords: cirkadijurni ritmovi; homeostaza spavanja; nagon za budnošću; nesanica; smjenski rad

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