Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis response to exogenous corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is attenuated in men with chronic insomnia

Alexandros N. Vgontzas, Julio Fernandez-Mendoza, Kristina Puzino Lenker, Maria Basta, Edward O. Bixler, George P. Chrousos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although insomnia is by far the most common sleep disorder, our understanding of its neurobiology is limited. Insomnia, particularly when associated with objective sleep disturbance, has been associated with activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. The objective of this experimental study was to compare the response of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis to ovine corticotropin-releasing hormone, a stress test, in men with insomnia versus controls. Circulating adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol levels were assayed before (−30 min, −15 min), at (0 min) and after (+5 min, +15 min, +30 min, +60 min, +90 min, +120 min) exogenous ovine corticotropin-releasing hormone administration in 23 men (11 insomnia, 12 controls), who underwent four consecutive nights of in-lab polysomnography. Men with insomnia compared with controls demonstrated markedly and significantly shorter total sleep time (368.4 ± 8.99 min versus 411.61 ± 8.61 min; p < 0.01) and lower sleep efficiency (76.77 ± 1.80% versus 86.04 ± 1.72%; p < 0.01) on polysomnography, and showed decreased adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol levels after ovine corticotropin-releasing hormone administration. Adrenocorticotropic hormone levels at 15 min and 30 min were significantly lower in men with insomnia than in controls (p < 0.05). Similarly, the peak levels of cortisol at +60 min, and the total and net area under the curve levels of this hormone were significantly lower in men with insomnia than controls (all p < 0.01). Adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol response to ovine corticotropin-releasing hormone administration was attenuated in men with insomnia associated with objective sleep disturbance, suggesting that objectively defined insomnia subtypes have a disrupted hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis function and highlight the need to develop treatments targeting the underlying hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis dysregulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13526
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Volume31
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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