The study investigated secretory patterns of growth hormone (GH) and cortisol in relation to sleep and wakefulness. Plasma hormone levels were monitored in 10 young men during baseline waking and sleeping, during 40 hours of wakefulness, and during sleep following deprivation. The normal nocturnal GH surge disappeared with sleep deprivation, and was intensified following sleep deprivation. Mean GH levels were higher during slow wave sleep (SWS) compared with other sleep stages. During sleep after deprivation, GH secretion was prolonged, and second GH peaks occurred in three subjects which were not associated with SWS. Average 24-hour cortisol levels were not altered by sleep deprivation or sleep following deprivation, but the nocturnal cortisol rise occurred approximately one hour earlier with sleep deprivation and one hour later with resumed sleep, compared to baseline. This effect on the timing of the rise is consistent with an initial inhibitory influence of sleep on cortisol secretion. The results demonstrate that: the nocturnal growth hormone surge is largely sleep-dependent; temporal associations between GH and SWS are not reliable after sleep deprivation; although the cortisol rhythm is not sleep-dependent, the timing of the cortisol rise may be influenced by sudden changes in the sleep-wake schedule.