Skip to main content

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


  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.






FD :

food intake


integrated motor activity

LQ :

liquid intake


non-REM (sleep)


rapid eye movement (sleep)

SD :

sleep deprivation


slow wave sleep

TS :

total sleep




  1. Adam, K., Oswald, I.: Sleep is for tissue restoration. J.R. Coll. Physicians Lond.11, 376–388 (1977)

    Google Scholar 

  2. Berger, R.J., Oswald, I.: Effects of sleep deprivation on behaviour, subsequent sleep, and dreaming, J. Ment. Sci.108, 457–465 (1962)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Borbély, A.A.: Effects of light on sleep and activity rhythms. Prog. Neurobiol.10, 1–31 (1978)

    Google Scholar 

  4. Borbély, A.A., Neuhaus, H.U.: Daily pattern of sleep, motor activity and feeding in the rat: Effects of regular and gradually extended photoperiods. J. Comp. Physiol.124, 1–14 (1978a)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Borbély, A.A., Neuhaus, H.U.: Circadian rhythm of sleep and motor activity in the rat during skeleton photoperiod, continuous darkness and continuous light. J. Comp. Physiol.128, 37–46 (1978b)

    Google Scholar 

  6. Church, M.W., March, J.D., Hibi, S., Cavness, C., Feinberg, L: Changes in frequency and amplitude of delta activity during sleep. Electroencephalogr. Clin. Neurophysiol.39, 1–7 (1977)

    Google Scholar 

  7. Crowley, T.J., Kripke, D.F., Halberg, F., Pegram, G.V., Schildkraut, J.J.: Circadian rhythmsof Macaca mulatta: sleep, EEG, body and eye movement, and temperature. Primates13, 149–168 (1972)

    Google Scholar 

  8. Feinberg, I., March, J.D., Fein, G., Floyd, T.C., Walker, J.M., Price, L.: Period and amplitude analysis of 0,5–3 c/sec activity in nREM sleep of young adults. Electroencephalogr. Clin. Neurophysiol.44, 202–213 (1978)

    Google Scholar 

  9. Griffin, S.J., Trinder, J.: Physical fitness, exercise, and human sleep. Psychophysiology15, 447–450 (1978)

    Google Scholar 

  10. Gulevich, G., Dement, W., Johnson, L: Psychiatric and EEG observations on a case of prolonged (264 h) wakefulness. Arch. Gen. Psychiatry,15, 29–35 (1966)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Hobson, J.A.: Sleep after exercise. Science162, 1503–1505 (1968)

    Google Scholar 

  12. Jouvet-Mounier, D., Astic, L., Lacote, D.: Ontogenesis of the states of sleep in rat, cat and guinea pig during the first postnatal month. Dev. Psychobiol.2, 216–239 (1969)

    Google Scholar 

  13. Kales, A., Tan, T-L., Kollar, E.J., Naitoh, P., Preston, T.A., Malmstrom, E.J.: Sleep patterns following 205 h of sleep deprivation. Psychosom. Med.32, 189–200 (1970)

    Google Scholar 

  14. Karacan, I., Williams, R.L., Finley, W.W., Hursch, C.J.: The effects of naps on nocturnal sleep: influence on the need for stage-1 REM and stage-4 sleep. Biol. Psychiatry2, 391–399 (1970)

    Google Scholar 

  15. Matsumoto, J., Nishisho, T., Suto, T., Sadahiro, T., Miyoshi, M.: Influence of fatigue on sleep. Nature218, 177–178 (1968)

    Google Scholar 

  16. Moses, J.M., Johnson, L.C., Naitoh, P., Lubin, A.: Sleep stage deprivation and total sleep loss: effects on sleep behavior. Psychophysiology12, 141–146 (1975)

    Google Scholar 

  17. Nakazawa, Y., Kotorii, M., Ohishima, M., Kotorii, T., Hasuzawa, H.: Changes in sleep pattern after sleep deprivation. Folia Psychiatr. Neurol. Jpn.32, 85–93 (1978)

    Google Scholar 

  18. Neuhaus, H.U., Borbély, A.A.: Sleep telemetry in the rat. II. Automatic identification and recording of vigilance states. Electroencephalogr. Clin. Neurophysiol.44, 115–119 (1978)

    Google Scholar 

  19. Pappenheimer, J.R., Koski, G., Fencl, V., Karnovsky, M.L., Krueger, J.: Extraction of sleep-promoting factor S from cerebrospinal fluid and from brains of sleep-deprived animals. J. Neurophysiol.38, 1299–1311 (1975)

    Google Scholar 

  20. Parmeggiani, P.L., Rabini, C.: Sleep and environmental temperature. Arch. Ital. Biol.108, 369–387 (1970)

    Google Scholar 

  21. Reite, M.L., Rhodes, J.M., Kavan, E., Adey, W.R.: Normal sleep patterns in macaque monkey. Arch. Neurol.12, 133–144 (1965)

    Google Scholar 

  22. Rosenberg, R.S., Bergmann, B.M., Rechtschaffen, A.: Variations in slow wave activity during sleep in the rat. Physiol. Behav.17, 931–938 (1976)

    Google Scholar 

  23. Ruedin, P., Bisang, J., Waser, P.G., Borbély, A.A.: Sleep telemetry in the rat: I. A miniaturized FM-AM transmitter for EEG and EMG. Electroencephalogr. Clin. Neurophysiol.44, 112–114 (1978)

    Google Scholar 

  24. Shapiro, C.M., Griesel, R.D., Bartel, P.R., Jooste, P.L.: Sleep patterns after graded exercise. J. Appl. Physiol.39, 187–190 (1975)

    Google Scholar 

  25. Sinha, A.K., Smythe, H., Zarcone, V.P., Barchas, J.D., Dement, W.C.: Human sleep-electroencephalogram: a damped oscillatory phenomenon. J. Theor. Biol.35, 387–393 (1972)

    Google Scholar 

  26. Smith, J.R., Karacan, I., Yang, M.: Ontogeny of delta activity during human sleep. Electroencephalogr. Clin. Neurophysiol.43, 229–237 (1977)

    Google Scholar 

  27. Stefurak, S.J., Stefurak, M.L., Mendelson, W.B., Gillin, J.C., Wyatt, R.J.: A method for sleep depriving rats. Parmacol. Biochem. Behav.6, 137–139 (1977)

    Google Scholar 

  28. Takahashi, Y., Ebihara, S., Nakamura, Y., Takahashi, K.: Temporal distributions of delta wave sleep and REM sleep during recovery sleep after 12-h forced wakefulness in dogs; similarity to human sleep. Neurosci. Lett.10, 329–334 (1978)

    Google Scholar 

  29. Ursin, R.: Differential effect of sleep deprivation on the two slow wave sleep stages in the cat. Acta Physiol. Scand.83, 352–361 (1971)

    Google Scholar 

  30. Vogel, G.W.: A review of REM sleep deprivation. Arch. Gen. Psychiatry32, 749–761 (1975)

    Google Scholar 

  31. Walker, J.M., Floyd, T.C., Fein, G., Cavness, C., Lualhati, R., Feinberg, I.: Effects of exercise on sleep. J. Appl. Physiol.: Respirat. Environ. Exercise Physiol.44, 945–951 (1978)

    Google Scholar 

  32. Webb, W.B., Agnew, H.W. Jr.: Stage 4 sleep: influence of time course variables. Science174, 1354–1356 (1971)

    Google Scholar 

  33. Webb, W.B., Agnew, H.W. Jr.: The effects of a chronic limitation of sleep length. Psychophysiology11, 265–274 (1974)

    Google Scholar 

  34. Webb, W.B. Agnew, H.W. Jr., Sternthal, H.: Sleep during the early morning. Psychon. Sci.6, 277–278 (1966)

    Google Scholar 

  35. Williams, H.L., Hammack, J.T., Daly, R.L., Dement, W.C., Lubin, A.: Responses to auditory stimulation, sleep loss and the EEG stages of sleep. Electroencephalogr. Clin. Neurophysiol.16, 269–279 (1964)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Additional information

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.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Borbély, A.A., Neuhaus, H.U. Sleep-deprivation: Effects on sleep and EEG in the rat. J. Comp. Physiol. 133, 71–87 (1979).

Download citation


  • Slow Wave Sleep
  • Intensity Gradient
  • Daily Rhythm
  • Minor Factor
  • Daily Pattern