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Rats were exposed to either 80 escapable shocks or yoked inescapable shocks and then injected with several hypnotic doses of sodium pentobarbital, midazolam, or ethanol; their sleep-time duration was compared with that of naive controls. Inescapable shock exposure resulted in a significant increase in ethanol-induced sleep time compared with the escapable shock and naive control groups. Both escape and yoked groups showed an increase in barbiturate-induced sleep time compared with controls, although no difference was observed for midazolam. Acute stress (twenty 5-s inescapable shocks) did not alter the depressant-induced sleep time for any of the drugs tested. These results illustrate the importance of psychological aspects of stress and its influence on the potency of certain depressants.