Slow-wave or deep sleep may be the controlling factor in the onset of puberty, rather than the involvement of any brain part in this process, says a US study. Previous studies have shown that the parts of the brain that control puberty first become active during sleep, but the present study shows that it is deep sleep, rather than sleep in general, that is linked with this activity.
“If the parts of the brain that activate the reproductive system depend on deep sleep, then we need to be concerned that inadequate or disturbed sleep in children and young adolescents may interfere with normal pubertal maturation,” said Harvard researcher Natalie Shaw, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, who led the study.
“This is particularly true for children who have been diagnosed with sleep disorders, but may also have more widespread implications as recent studies have found that most adolescents get less sleep than they require,” the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM) reports. In the study, researchers examined pulses of luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion in relation to specific sleep stages in children aged nine to 15 years, according to a Boston statement.
LH is essential for reproduction and triggers ovulation in females and stimulates the production of testosterone in males. Researchers found that the majority of LH pulses that occur after sleep are preceded by deep sleep suggesting that deep sleep is intimately involved in pubertal onset. Other Harvard study co-authors include James Butler of Brigham & Women’s Hospital; and Scott McKinney, Susan Nelson, Jeffery Ellenbogen and senior author Janet Hall, all of Massachusetts General Hospital.