Restraint increases prolactin and REM sleep in C57BL/6J mice but not in BALB/cJ mice

Meerlo, P., Easton, A., Bergmann, B. M. & Turek, F. W., 2001, In : American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 281, 3, p. R846-R854

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Sleep is generally considered to be a recovery from prior wakefulness. The architecture of sleep not only depends on the duration of wakefulness but also on its quality in terms of specific experiences. In the present experiment, we studied the effects of restraint stress on sleep architecture and sleep electroencephalography (EEG) in different strains of mice (C57BL/6J and BALB/cJ). One objective was to determine if the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep-promoting effects of restraint stress previously reported for rats would also occur in mice. In addition, we examined whether the effects of restraint stress on sleep are different from effects of social defeat stress, which was found to have a non-REM (NREM) sleep-promoting effect. We further measured corticosterone and prolactin levels as possible mediators of restraint stress-induced changes in sleep. Adult male C57BL/6J and BALB/cJ mice were subjected to 1 h of restraint stress in the middle of the light phase. To control for possible effects of sleep loss per se, the animals were also kept awake for 1 h by gentle handling. Restraint stress resulted in a mild increase in NREM sleep compared with baseline, but, overall, this effect was not significantly different from sleep deprivation by gentle handling. In contrast, restraint stress caused a significant increase in REM sleep compared with handling in the C57BL/6J mice but not in BALB/cJ mice. Corticosterone levels were significantly and similarly elevated after restraint in both strains, but prolactin was increased only in the C57BL/6J mice. In conclusion, this study shows that the restraint stress-induced increase in REM sleep in mice is strongly strain dependent. The concomitant increases in prolactin and REM sleep in the C57BL/6J mice, but not in BALB/cJ mice, suggest prolactin may be involved in the mechanism underlying restraint stress-induced REM sleep. Furthermore, this study confirms that different stressors differentially affect NREM and REM sleep. Whereas restraint stress promotes REM sleep in C57BL/6J mice, we previously found that in the same strain, social defeat stress promotes NREM sleep. As such, studying the consequences of specific stressful stimuli may be an important tool to unravel both the mechanism and function of different sleep stages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R846-R854
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • sleep, REM sleep, paradoxical sleep, sleep homeostasis, sleep disruption, sleep disturbance, sleep deprivation, restraint stress, immobilization stress, individual differences, genetic differences, strain differences, (C57BL/6J mice, BALB/cJ mice, prolactin, corticosterone

ID: 14697294