Chronic social stress leads to altered sleep homeostasis in mice

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Disturbed sleep and altered sleep homeostasis are core features of many psychiatric disorders such as depression. Chronic uncontrollable stress is considered an important factor in the development of depression, but little is known on how chronic stress affects sleep regulation and sleep homeostasis. We therefore examined the effects of chronic social stress (CSS) on sleep regulation in mice. Adult male C57BL/6 mice were implanted for electrocortical recordings (ECoG) and underwent either a 10-day CSS protocol or control handling (CON). Subsequently, ECoG was assessed across a 24-h post-stress baseline, followed by a 4-h sleep deprivation, and then a 20-h recovery period. After sleep deprivation, CSS mice showed a blunted increase in sleep pressure compared to CON mice, as measured using slow wave activity (SWA, electroencephalographic power between 1–4 Hz) during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Vigilance states did not differ between CSS and CON mice during post-stress baseline, sleep deprivation or recovery, with the exception of CSS mice exhibiting increased REM sleep during recovery sleep. Behavior during sleep deprivation was not affected by CSS. Our data provide evidence that CSS alters the homeostatic regulation of sleep SWA in mice. In contrast to acute social stress, which results in a faster SWA build-up, CSS decelerates the homeostatic build up. These findings are discussed in relation to the causal contribution of stress-induced sleep disturbance to depression.

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