College of Psychology: Faculty Articles


Sleep fragmentation elevates behavioral, electrographic and neurochemical measures of sleepiness

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Sleep fragmentation, a feature of sleep apnea as well as other sleep and medical/psychiatric disorders, is thought to lead to excessive daytime sleepiness. A rodent model of sleep fragmentation was developed (termed sleep interruption, SI), where rats were awakened every 2 min by the movement of an automated treadmill for either 6 or 24 h of exposure. The sleep pattern of rats exposed to 24 h of SI resembled sleep of the apneic patient in the following ways: sleep was fragmented (up to 30 awakening/h), total rapid eye movement (REM) sleep time was greatly reduced, non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep episode duration was reduced (from 2 min, 5 s baseline to 58 s during SI), whereas the total amount of NREM sleep time per 24 h approached basal levels. Both 6 and 24 h of SI made rats more sleepy, as indicated by a reduced latency to fall asleep upon SI termination. Electrographic measures in the recovery sleep period following either 6 or 24 h of SI also indicated an elevation of homeostatic sleep drive; specifically, the average NREM episode duration increased (e.g. for 24 h SI, from 2 min, 5 s baseline to 3 min, 19 s following SI), as did the NREM delta power during recovery sleep. Basal forebrain (BF) levels of extracellular adenosine (AD) were also measured with microdialysis sample collection and high performance liquid chromatography detection, as previous work suggests that increasing concentrations of BF AD are related to sleepiness. BF AD levels were significantly elevated during SI, peaking at 220% of baseline during 30 h of SI exposure. These combined findings imply an elevation of the homeostatic sleep drive following either 6 or 24 h of SI, and BF AD levels appear to correlate more with sleepiness than with the cumulative amount of prior wakefulness, since total NREM sleep time declined only slightly. SI may be partially responsible for the symptom of daytime sleepiness observed in a number of clinical disorders, and this may be mediated by mechanisms involving BF AD.



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