Cocaine administration can be disruptive to sleep. In compulsive cocaine users, sleep disruption may be a factor contributing to relapse. The effects of cocaine on sleep, particularly those produced by low doses, have not been extensively studied. Low dose cocaine may stimulate brain reward systems that are linked to the liability of abusing of this drug. This study was designed to assess the effects of the acute administration of low to moderate cocaine doses on sleep in the rat. Polygraphic recordings were obtained from freely moving, chronically instrumented rats over a 6-h period after the administration of either cocaine (as a 2.5-10 mg/kg intraperitoneal dose) or saline. Following cocaine administration, time spent by the rats in wakefulness increased and slow wave sleep decreased in a dose-dependent manner, compared to controls. These changes lasted between 1 to 3 h following the cocaine administration. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep was decreased during a 2- to 3-h period following the injection of 5 and 10 mg/kg doses of cocaine. In contrast, REM sleep increased during the periods 2-4 h after the administration of 2.5 and 5 mg/kg doses of cocaine. These results indicate that sleep can be significantly altered by low doses of cocaine when administered subacutely.