Effects of housing condition and cage change on characteristics of sleep in mice

J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2014 Jan;53(1):29-37.


Although human subjects are widely used to study sleep and sleep disorders, animals have been invaluable in developing our understanding of the physiology of sleep and underlying mechanisms of sleep disorders. Environmental stimuli are likely to modify sleep in both animals and people, suggesting that environmental stability must be controlled carefully by both husbandry and research staff to allow collection of valid results with minimal numbers of animals. However, few studies have measured the effects of cage condition on sleep parameters in mice. Current guidelines recommend social housing and environmental enrichment for standard rodent housing. Environmental factors such as these create potential confounds in studies for which facets of sleep are outcome measures. We therefore sought to determine whether cage changes, group housing, or single housing with a shelter altered measures of sleep in C57BL/6J mice. The resulting data indicate that 1) cage changing disrupts sleep for approximately 3 h; 2) group housing is associated with shorter bouts of rapid-eye-movement sleep (REMS) and less slow-wave sleep (SWS) during the light phase and with more REMS during the dark phase; and 3) mice housed with a shelter spend less time awake and more time in SWS, with longer bouts of SWS during the dark phase. In additional, both group housing and housing with a shelter were associated with less locomotor activity than occurred in individually housed mice without a shelter. These findings provide evidence for long-held beliefs that housing conditions must be controlled carefully in studies that require assessment of sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Housing
  • Housing, Animal*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Sleep / physiology*