The neuropeptides growth hormone (GH)-releasing hormone (GHRH) and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) regulate sleep and nocturnal hormone secretion in a reciprocal fashion, at least in males. GHRH promotes sleep and GH and inhibits hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) hormones. CRH exerts opposite effects. In women, a sexual dimorphism was found because GHRH impairs sleep and stimulates HPA hormones. Sleep deprivation (SD) is the most powerful stimulus for inducing sleep. Studies in rodents show a key role of GHRH in sleep promotion after SD. The effects of GHRH and CRH on sleep-endocrine activity during the recovery night after SD are unknown. We compared sleep EEG, GH, and cortisol secretion between nights before and after 40 h of SD in 48 normal women and men aged 19-67 yr. During the recovery night, GHRH, CRH, or placebo were injected repetitively. After placebo during the recovery night, non-rapid-eye-movement sleep (NREMS) and rapid-eye-movement sleep (REMS) increased and wakefulness decreased compared with the baseline night. After GHRH, the increase of NREMS and the decrease of wakefulness were more distinct than after placebo. Also, after CRH, NREMS increased higher than after placebo, and a positive correlation was found between age and the baseline-related increase of slow-wave sleep. REMS increased after placebo and after GHRH, but not after CRH. EEG spectral analysis showed increases in the lower frequencies and decreases in the higher frequencies during NREMS after each of the treatments. Cortisol and GH did not differ between baseline and recovery nights after placebo. After GHRH, GH increased and cortisol decreased. Cortisol increased after CRH. No sex differences were found in these changes. Our data suggest that GHRH and CRH augment NREMS promotion after SD. Marked differences appear to exist in peptidergic sleep regulation between spontaneous and recovery sleep.