Substance abuse and sleep deprivation are major problems in our society. Clinical studies suggest that measures of poor sleep quality effectively predict relapse to substance abuse. Previously, our laboratory has shown that acute sleep deprivation increases the rate and efficiency (i.e., the goal-directed nature of responding) of cocaine self-administration using a progressive ratio (PR) schedule of reinforcement. However, the problem of sleep deprivation in our nation is largely one of chronicity. Therefore, the current study used a rodent model of chronic sleep restriction more akin to that experienced by humans (approximately 25% reduction in baseline sleep over the course of 8 days) to assess the impact of chronic sleep deprivation on cocaine-seeking and cocaine-taking behaviors in rats early during acquisition of self-administration. While low drug-taking rats were unaffected by chronic sleep restriction, high drug-takers in the chronic sleep restriction (CSR) group exhibited enhanced fixed ratio (FR) responding by the fourth day of FR training and significantly higher PR breakpoints than their non-sleep restriction (NSR) counterparts. This study is the first to directly assess the impact of chronic sleep deprivation on drug self-administration. These results show that chronic sleep deprivation early during acquisition of self-administration has a significant effect on the perceived incentive reward value of cocaine in high drug-takers, as indicated by both increased FR responding and an increased willingness to work for drug. Thus, it is important to be mindful of such factors in clinical settings designed for treatment of addiction and relapse prevention.
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