Many studies in animals and humans suggest that sleep facilitates learning, memory consolidation, and retrieval. Moreover, sleep deprivation (SD) incurred after learning, impaired memory in humans, mice, rats, and hamsters. We investigated the importance of sleep and its timing in an object recognition task in OF1 mice subjected to 6h SD either immediately after the acquisition phase (0-6 SD) or 6h later (7-12 SD), and in corresponding undisturbed controls. Motor activity was continuously recorded with infrared sensors. All groups explored two familiar, previously encountered objects to a similar extent, both at the end of the acquisition phase and 24h later during the test phase, indicating intact familiarity detection. During the test phase 0-6 SD mice failed to discriminate between the single novel and the two familiar objects. In contrast, the 7-12 SD group and the two control groups explored the novel object significantly longer than the two familiar objects. Plasma corticosterone levels determined after SD did not differ from time-matched undisturbed controls, but were significantly below the level measured after learning alone. ACTH did not differ between the groups. Therefore, it is unlikely that stress contributed to the memory impairment. We conclude that the loss of sleep and the activities the mice engaged in during the SD, impaired recognition memory retrieval, when they occurred immediately after acquisition. The delayed SD enabled memory consolidation during the 6h when the mice were allowed to sleep, and had no detrimental effect on memory. Neither SD schedule impaired object familiarity processing, suggesting that only specific cognitive abilities were sensitive to the intervention. Sleep may either actively promote memory formation, or alternatively, sleep may provide optimal conditions of non-interference for consolidation.