The effects of caffeine on sleep and maturational markers in the rat

PLoS One. 2013 Sep 4;8(9):e72539. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0072539. eCollection 2013.


Adolescence is a critical period for brain maturation during which a massive reorganization of cortical connectivity takes place. In humans, slow wave activity (<4.5 Hz) during NREM sleep was proposed to reflect cortical maturation which relies on use-dependent processes. A stimulant like caffeine, whose consumption has recently increased especially in adolescents, is known to affect sleep wake regulation. The goal of this study was to establish a rat model allowing to assess the relationship between cortical maturation and sleep and to further investigate how these parameters are affected by caffeine consumption. To do so, we assessed sleep and markers of maturation by electrophysiological recordings, behavioral and structural readouts in the juvenile rat. Our results show that sleep slow wave activity follows a similar inverted U-shape trajectory as already known in humans. Caffeine treatment exerted short-term stimulating effects and altered the trajectory of slow wave activity. Moreover, caffeine affected behavioral and structural markers of maturation. Thus, caffeine consumption during a critical developmental period shows long lasting effects on sleep and brain maturation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Sleep / drug effects*


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Caffeine

Grant support

This work was supported by the Neuroscience Center Zurich and the Swiss National Science Foundation (PP00A-114923 and PP00P3-13538). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.