Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a novel research tool in neurology and psychiatry. It is currently being evaluated as a conceivable alternative to electroconvulsive therapy for the treatment of mood disorders. Eight healthy young (age range 21-25 years) right-handed men without sleep complaints participated in the study. Two sessions at a 1-week interval, each consisting of an adaptation night (sham stimulation) and an experimental night (rTMS in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex or sham stimulation; crossover design), were scheduled. In each subject, 40 trains of 2-s duration of rTMS (inter-train interval 28 s) were applied at a frequency of 20 Hz (i.e. 1600 pulses per session) and at an intensity of 90% of the motor threshold. Stimulations were scheduled 80 min before lights off. The waking EEG was recorded for 10-min intervals approximately 30 min prior to and after the 20-min stimulations, and polysomnographic recordings were obtained during the subsequent sleep episode (23.00-07.00 h). The power spectra of two referential derivations, as well as of bipolar derivations along the antero-posterior axis over the left and right hemispheres, were analyzed. rTMS induced a small reduction of sleep stage 1 (in min and percentage of total sleep time) over the whole night and a small enhancement of sleep stage 4 during the first non-REM sleep episode. Other sleep variables were not affected. rTMS of the left dorsolateral cortex did not alter the topography of EEG power spectra in waking following stimulation, in the all-night sleep EEG, or during the first non-REM sleep episode. Our results indicate that a single session of rTMS using parameters like those used in depression treatment protocols has no detectable side effects with respect to sleep in young healthy males.