Dynamic changes in sleep pattern during post-partum in normal pregnancy in rat model

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To develop an animal model for studies on peri-partum sleep disorders, sleep patterns in female Wistar rats during pregnancy, post-partum and after weaning, were assessed and associated adaptive changes in their anxiety were examined. Adult nulliparous female rats, maintained in standard laboratory conditions with ad libitum food and water, were surgically implanted with electroencephalogram and electromyogram electrodes under anaesthesia for objective assessment of sleep-wakefulness (S-W). After post-surgical recovery, three control recordings of S-W were taken for 24 h before the animals were kept for mating. After confirmation of pregnancy, S-W recordings were acquired during different days of pregnancy, post-partum lactation/nursing days, and also after weaning. Their anxiety levels were tested in the elevated plus maze. During pregnancy, sleep increased primarily due to increase in light non-REM sleep during dark period. There was an increase in non-REM sleep delta power after parturition, though the sleep was fragmented, especially during daytime. Simultaneous behavioural recording showed increased anxiety during third trimester of pregnancy and gradual reversal of it after parturition. This is the first report where diurnal and nocturnal variations in S-W and delta power, along with adaptive changes in anxiety, were studied before, during and after pregnancy. This study also provides an animal model for drug trials and studies on sleep disorders during peri-partum window.

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