Chronic sleep restriction during development can lead to long-lasting behavioral effects

Physiol Behav. 2016 Mar 1;155:208-17. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.12.019. Epub 2015 Dec 19.


Sleep abnormalities are highly correlated with neurodevelopmental disorders, and the severity of behavioral abnormalities correlates with the presence of sleep abnormalities. Given the importance of sleep in developmental plasticity, we sought to determine the effects of chronic sleep-restriction during development on subsequent adult behavior. We sleep-restricted developing wild-type mice from P5-P42 for 3h per day by means of gentle handling (n=30) and compared behavioral outputs to controls that were handled 10 min daily (n=33). We assayed activity in the open field, social behavior, repetitive behavior, and anxiety immediately following sleep restriction and after four weeks of recovery. At six weeks of age, immediately following chronic sleep-restriction, mice were less active in an open field arena. Sociability was increased, but repetitive behaviors were unchanged in both males and females. After a 4-week period of recovery, some behavioral abnormalities persisted and some became apparent. Sleep-restricted mice had decreased activity in the beginning of an open field test. Female mice continued to have increased sociability and, in addition, increased preference for social novelty. In contrast, male mice demonstrated decreased sociability with medium effect sizes. Repetitive behavior was decreased in sleep-restricted female mice and increased in males. Measures of anxiety were not affected in the sleep-restricted mice. These results indicate that chronic sleep restriction during development can lead to long-lasting behavioral changes that are modulated by sex. Our study may have implications for a role of disrupted sleep in childhood on the unfolding of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Keywords: Gentle handling; Open field activity; Repetitive behavior; Sleep restriction; Social behavior.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Exploratory Behavior
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motor Activity
  • Psychological Tests
  • Random Allocation
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Deprivation / psychology*
  • Social Behavior
  • Stereotyped Behavior