, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 71-87

Sleep-deprivation: Effects on sleep and EEG in the rat

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Summary

  1. The vigilance states (waking, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and non-REM (NREM) sleep), motor activity, food intake and water intake were continuously recorded by telemetry in unrestrained rats. In addition, an amplitude measure and a frequency measure (number of zero-crossings (ZCR) per 10 s) of the telemetered EEG-signal was obtained. The animals were recorded during a control day, then subjected to 12-h or 24-h sleep-deprivation (SD) by means of a slowly rotating cylinder, and subsequently recorded for further 1–2 days. The EEG-parameters were recorded also during SD.

  2. On the control day, the EEG-amplitude of NREM-sleep exhibited a decreasing trend in the 12-h light-phase (Figs. 3, 4). The occurence of slow wave sleep (SWS; defined as the NREM-sleep fraction with less than 40 ZCR/10 s) was practically limited to the first part of the light-phase (Figs. 2, 4). Cumulative plots of the zero-crossing bands (Fig. 2) revealed a prominent daily rhythm in the EEG-frequency distributionwithin NREM-sleep.

  3. The percentage of NREM-sleep and REM-sleep was little affected by the 12-h SD, but the amount of SWS and the EEG-amplitude of NREM-sleep were increased (Figs. 4, 6). After a 24-h SD period terminating before light-onset, NREM-sleep was reduced and REM-sleep was markedly enhanced (Figs. 4, 6; Table 1). Both the duration and frequency of REM-sleep episodes were increased, and episodes of total sleep prolonged (Table 2). The amount of SWS was significantly more increased after 24-h SD than after 12-h SD, whereas the EEG-amplitude of NREM-sleep was enhanced to a similar extent after both SD-schedules (Tables 1, 3 Fig. 6).

  4. After a 24-h SD period terminating before dark-onset, sleep (particularly REM-sleep) was enhanced in the first hours of the dark-phase, yet the usual high activity bouts prevailed in the later part of the dark-phase (Figs. 7, 8; Table 1). The extent and time-course of REM-sleep rebound was similar after the two 24-SD schedules, whereas SWS-rebound was different: SWS exhibited a one-stage rebound when recovery started in the light-phase, and a two-stage rebound when recovery started in the dark-phase (Fig. 9).

  5. A comparison of the effects of 12-h SD performed with the usual and with the double cylinder rotation rate, showed only small differences, indicating that forced locomotion was a minor factor in comparison to sleep-deprivation (Fig. 10; Table 1).

  6. The daily pattern of SWS on control days, and the marked increase of SWS after SD correspond to the results from other animal and human studies. It is proposed that due to the existence of an intensity dimension, NREM-sleep is finely regulated around its baseline level, and thus may be readily and accurately adjusted to current ‘needs’, whereas REM-sleep, lacking an apparent intensity gradient, is regulated around a level which is considerably below baseline. Thus, in contrast to NREM-sleep, REM-sleep compensation can occur only by an increase in the time devoted to this state, thereby curtailing the time available for other activities.

We thank Irene Tobler for her valuable help with the experiments and for comments on the manuscript. The assistance of Gabriella Costantini (experiments) and Christa Mrugalski (typing) is gratefully acknowledged. The study was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, grant Nr. 3.254-0.77, and the Hartmann-Müller Stiftung für Medizinische Forschung.