Effects of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep deprivation on pain sensitivity in the rat

Brain Res. 2001 May 11;900(2):261-7. doi: 10.1016/s0006-8993(01)02320-4.


The relationship between pain and sleep seems to be reciprocal: if pain may interrupt or disturb sleep, poor sleep can also influence pain perception. However the influence of sleep disturbances on pain sensitivity remain poorly investigated. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of REM sleep deprivation on the reaction of rats subjected to different noxious stimuli. In each experiment 16 Wistar male rats were randomly assigned to two groups: controls (n=8), and REM sleep deprived rats (n=8). REM sleep deprivation was elicited using the 'inverted flower pot' technique. Four different experiments were performed to assess the sensitivity to mechanical (vocalization threshold in paw pressure), thermal (tail withdrawal latency in hot water immersion), electrical (envelope of 2nd peep in tail shock test) and chemical (analgesic behavior in formalin test) noxious stimuli. All experiments were performed over a 5-day period with baseline (day 1, day 2) in a dry environment and REM sleep deprivation (day 3, day 4 and day 5) in a wet environment. Under wet conditions, vocalization threshold in the paw pressure test (-20%, P=0.005), and tail withdrawal latency in the hot water immersion test (-21%, P=0.006) were significantly lower, and the envelope of 2nd peep in the tail electrical shock was significantly greater (+78%, P=0.009), in REM sleep deprived rats compared to controls. However, under wet conditions the mean duration of nociceptive behaviors in the formalin test did not differ between the two groups. In conclusion, REM sleep deprivation induces a significant increase in the behavioral responses to noxious mechanical, thermal and electrical stimuli in rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Formaldehyde / pharmacology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Immersion
  • Male
  • Nociceptors / drug effects
  • Nociceptors / physiology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Threshold / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal


  • Formaldehyde