REVIEW | Institution: Warwick Medical School, Coventry, UK
Originally published January 2004.
Humans exhibit behaviour and physiology controlled by a circadian clock. The circadian period is genetically determined and administered by a series of interlocked autoregulatory feedback loops largely in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus. The phase of the clock is, however, synchronised by a number of external environmental cues such as light. A failure or change in any one of the requisite clock components may result in the onset of a long-term sleep disorder. This review discusses the mechanism regulating circadian physiology in humans and explores how disturbances of this mechanism may result in sleep pathologies.