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Classical Theory and Glutamate’s Role in Wake-Sleep Cycle

Desak Ketut Indrasari Utami, Putu Lohita Rahmawati.


Sleep is a complex process that has an important role in physiological function. The mechanism on how exactly the human wake-sleep cycle is running has not been identified. The classical theory has been a cornerstone of the explanation since the early 20th century. According to the theory, various neurotransmitters links several structures in the brainstem, diencephalon and cortex in order to maintain the cycle. However, there are several aspects of sleep that cannot be explained by the theory such as how the process of transition from slow-wave sleep to REM sleep, how the regulation of muscle atony and eye movement during REM sleep, and why damage to one nucleus of the awareness system has little effect on daily sleep quantity. A new paradigm in the wake-sleep cycle by adding the role of the rapid neurotransmitters, the balance of glutamate and GABA, has become the focus of sleep research in the last 10 years. Recent evidence points to the important role of glutamate to fill in gaps in the classical theory of the wake-sleep cycle, sleep homeostasis and its effects on neuroplasticity, and the development of various neurodegenerative diseases.

Key words: Wake-sleep cycle, glutamate, neurotransmitters

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