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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006 Jul;30(7):1214-22.

Disruptions in sleep time and sleep architecture in a mouse model of repeated ethanol withdrawal.

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  • Research Service, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Charleston, South Carolina 29401-5799, USA. veatchlm@musc.edu



Insomnia and other sleep difficulties are perhaps the most common and enduring symptoms reported by alcoholics undergoing detoxification, especially those alcoholics with a history of multiple detoxifications. While some studies have reported sleep disruptions in animal models after chronic ethanol exposure, the reports are inconsistent and few address sleep architecture across repeated ethanol exposures and withdrawals. The present study evaluated sleep time and architecture in a well-characterized mouse model of repeated chronic ethanol exposure and withdrawal.


C57BL6/J mice were fitted with electrodes in frontal cortex, hippocampus, and nuchal muscle for collection of continuous electroencephalogram (EEG)/electromyogram (EMG) data. Baseline data were collected, after which mice received 4 cycles of 16-hour exposure to alcohol (ethanol: EtOH) vapor separated by 8-hour periods of withdrawal or similar handling in the absence of EtOH vapor. Ethanol-exposed mice attained a blood ethanol concentration of 165 mg%. Upon completion of vapor exposure, EEG/EMG data were again collected across 4 days of acute withdrawal. Data were subjected to automated analyses classifying 10-second epochs into wake, non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, or REM sleep states.


Mice in withdrawal after chronic EtOH exposure showed profound disruptions in the total time asleep, across the acute withdrawal period. Sleep architecture, the composition of sleep, was also disrupted with a reduction in non-REM sleep concomitant with a profound increase in REM sleep. While altered sleep time and non-REM sleep loss resolved by the fourth day of withdrawal, the increase in REM sleep ("REM rebound") persisted.


These results mirror those reported for the human alcoholic and demonstrate that EtOH withdrawal-induced sleep disruptions are evident in this mouse model of alcohol withdrawal-induced sensitization. This mouse model may provide mechanisms to investigate fully the high correlation between unremitting sleep problems and increased risk of relapse documented clinically.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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