Sleep is a complex behavior both in its manifestation and regulation, that is common to almost all animal species studied thus far. Sleep is not a unitary behavior and has many different aspects, each of which is tightly regulated and influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Despite its essential role for performance, health, and well-being, genetic mechanisms underlying this complex behavior remain poorly understood. One important aspect of sleep concerns its homeostatic regulation, which ensures that levels of sleep need are kept within a range still allowing optimal functioning during wakefulness. Uncovering the genetic pathways underlying the homeostatic aspect of sleep is of particular importance because it could lead to insights concerning sleep’s still elusive function and is therefore a main focus of current sleep research. In this chapter, we first give a definition of sleep homeostasis and describe the molecular genetics techniques that are used to examine it. We then provide a conceptual discussion on the problem of assessing a sleep homeostatic phenotype in various animal models. We finally highlight some of the studies with a focus on clock genes and adenosine signaling molecules.
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