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Behav Brain Res. 1995 Jul-Aug;69(1-2):55-63.

Sleep deprivation in the rat by the disk-over-water method.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Chronic sleep deprivation may be required to reveal the most serious physiological consequences of sleep loss, but it usually requires strong stimulation which can obscure the interpretation of effects. The disk-over-water method permits chronic sleep deprivation of rats with gentle physical stimulation that can be equally applied to yoked control rats. A series of studies with this method has revealed little or no pathology in the control rats. The deprived rats show a reliable syndrome that includes temperature changes (which vary with the sleep stages that are lost); heat seeking behavior; increased food intake; weight loss; increased metabolic rate; increased plasma norepinephrine; decreased plasma thyroxine; an increased triiodothyronine-thyroxine ratio; and an increase of an enzyme which mediates thermogenesis by brown adipose tissue. The temperature changes are attributable to excessive heat loss and an elevated thermoregulatory setpoint, both of which increase thermoregulatory load, and the other changes are interpretable as responses to this increased load. This pattern indicates that sleep serves a thermoregulatory function in the rat. The sleep deprived rats also show stereotypic ulcerative and hyperkeratotic lesions localized to the tail and plantar surfaces of the paws, and they die within a matter of weeks; the mediation of these changes is unresolved.

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