The circadian pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nuclei is primarily synchronized to the daily light-dark cycle. The phase-shifting and synchronizing effects of light can be modulated by non-photic factors, such as behavioral, metabolic or serotonergic cues. The present experiments examine the effects of sleep deprivation on the response of the circadian pacemaker to light and test the possible involvement of serotonergic and/or metabolic cues in mediating the effects of sleep deprivation. Photic phase-shifting of the locomotor activity rhythm was analyzed in mice transferred from a light-dark cycle to constant darkness, and sleep-deprived for 8 h from Zeitgeber Time 6 to Zeitgeber Time 14. Phase-delays in response to a 10-min light pulse at Zeitgeber Time 14 were reduced by 30% in sleep-deprived mice compared to control mice, while sleep deprivation without light exposure induced no significant phase-shifts. Stimulation of serotonin neurotransmission by fluoxetine (10 mg/kg), a serotonin reuptake inhibitor that decreases light-induced phase-delays in non-deprived mice, did not further reduce light-induced phase-delays in sleep-deprived mice. Impairment of serotonin neurotransmission with p-chloroamphetamine (three injections of 10 mg/kg), which did not increase light-induced phase-delays in non-deprived mice significantly, partially normalized light-induced phase-delays in sleep-deprived mice. Injections of glucose increased light-induced phase-delays in control and sleep-deprived mice. Chemical damage of the ventromedial hypothalamus by gold-thioglucose (600 mg/kg) prevented the reduction of light-induced phase-delays in sleep-deprived mice, without altering phase-delays in control mice. Taken together, the present results indicate that sleep deprivation can reduce the light-induced phase-shifts of the mouse suprachiasmatic pacemaker, due to serotonergic and metabolic changes associated with the loss of sleep.