Sleep deprivation and cellular responses to oxidative stress

Anupama Gopalakrishnan, Li Li Ji, Chiara Cirelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: It has been hypothesized that sleep deprivation represents an oxidative challenge for the brain and that sleep may have a protective role against oxidative damage. This study was designed to test this hypothesis by measuring in rats the effects of sleep loss on markers of oxidative stress (oxidant production and antioxidant enzyme activities) as well as on markers of cellular oxidative damage (lipid peroxidation and protein oxidation). Design: The analyses were performed in the brain and in peripheral tissues (liver and skeletal muscle), after short-term sleep deprivation (8 hours), after long-term sleep deprivation (3-14 days), and during recovery sleep after 1 week of sleep loss. Short-term sleep deprivation was performed by gentle handling; long-term sleep deprivation was performed using the disk-over-water method. Setting: Sleep research laboratory at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Participants and Interventions: Adult male Wistar Kyoto rats (n = 69) implanted for polygraphic (electroencephalogram, electromyogram) recording. Measurements and Results: Aliquots of brain, liver, or skeletal muscle homogenate were used to assess oxidant production, superoxide dismutase activity, lipid peroxidation, and protein oxidation. No evidence of oxidative damage was observed at the lipid and/or at the protein level in long-term sleep-deprived animals relative to their yoked controls, nor in the cerebral cortex or in peripheral tissues. Also, no consistent change in antioxidant enzymatic activities was found after prolonged sleep deprivation, nor was any evidence of increased oxidant production in the brain or in peripheral tissues. Conclusion: The available data do not support the assumption that prolonged wakefulness may cause oxidative damage, nor that it can represent an oxidative stress for the brain or for peripheral tissue such as liver and skeletal muscle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004


  • Cerebral cortex
  • Disk-over-water method
  • Norepinephrine
  • Oxidative stress
  • Rat
  • Sleep deprivation


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