Routine sleep duration varies greatly among individuals. The biological meaning of this
variation is unknown.
The term circadian rhythm refers to the biological clock that regulates the timing of
falling asleep, waking up, and secretion of hormones, like melatonin. Melatonin is secreted
at night. Previous studies have shown that melatonin may play a role in the regulation of
The purpose of this study is to learn whether the duration of nighttime (nocturnal)
melatonin secretion is longer in people with long regular sleep duration than people with
short sleep duration.
Researchers will compare levels of melatonin and cortisol, body temperature, sleepiness, and
sleep in two extreme groups. Group one will be made up of people with short sleep duration
lasting less than 6 hours. Group two will be made up of people with long sleep duration
lasting more than 9 hours.
Habitual sleep duration varies greatly among individuals. The biological meaning of this
variation is unknown. The present project proposes that differences in habitual sleep
duration are associated with differences in the output of the endogenous circadian
pacemaker, which programs the 'internal biological night'. The protocol hypothesizes that
the duration of the internal biological night as defined by the nocturnal intervals of
detectable plasma melatonin levels, low body temperature, low EEG activity in the
high-frequency alpha band, increasing sleepiness and increasing plasma cortisol levels is
longer in habitual long sleepers (sleep duration greater than 9 hours) than in short
sleepers (less than 6 hours). Since recent results in healthy subjects suggest that
melatonin has some soporific or hypnotic properties, we furthermore hypothesize that the
level of nocturnal melatonin secretion is higher in long sleepers than in short sleepers.
The circadian rhythms of plasma melatonin, body temperature, waking EEG activity, subjective
sleepiness and plasma cortisol will be assessed in a ~40-hour constant routine protocol. In
addition, a 36-hour extended bed rest protocol will be carried out in order to study
spontaneous sleep duration and sleep structure under ad lib conditions while time cues and
social cues are absent. It is hypothesized that as a consequence of differences in the
circadian output, long sleepers will sleep more, have a different sleep structure, and
spontaneously wake up on a lower level of homeostatic sleep pressure than short sleepers.
Finally, we intend to determine whether differences in habitual sleep duration between long
and short sleepers are associated with dysthymic and hypomanic characteristics of mood,
respectively. We are asking to study a total of 15 long sleepers and 15 short sleepers.
Given that we have already studied 9 long sleepers and 9 short sleepers, we anticipate that
72 patient-days per year for one year would be required to complete the study.
Sleep greater than or equal to 9 hours almost every night.
Sleep less than or equal to 6 hours almost every night.
Between ages 20-30.
No medications, history of psychiatric illness, history of head injury.
No sleep disturbances.