Paradoxical Sleep Deprivation Influences Sexual Behavior in Female Rats


  • Monica L. Andersen and TAF Alvarenga equally contributed to this study.

Monica L. Andersen, PhD, Department of Psychobiology, Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP), R. Napoleão de Barros, V. Clementino 04024-002, São Paulo, SP, Brazil. Tel: 5511-21490155; Fax: 5511-55725092; E-mail:


Introduction.  Sleep disturbances are a frequent complaint in women and are often attributed to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. Rodents have been used as models to examine the effects of sleep deprivation on hormonal and behavioral changes. Among the many comorbidities common to sleep disorders, sexual behavior remains the least well studied.

Aim.  To determine whether paradoxical sleep deprivation (PSD) can affect sexual receptivity (male acceptance) and proceptivity (male solicitation) behaviors in female rats.

Methods.  Female Wistar rats were subjected to PSD or were maintained as controls. After this period, the estrous cycle (proestrus, estrus, and diestrus) was determined, and all females were placed with a sexually experienced male. In order to investigate the role of hormones in sexual behavior, we included additional groups that were artificially induced to be sexually receptive via administration of a combination of estradiol and progesterone.

Main Outcome Measurements.  Receptivity and proceptivity behaviors, as well as progesterone and corticosterone concentrations were monitored.

Results.  Selective sleep loss caused a significant increase in proceptivity and receptivity behaviors in females exclusively during the proestrus phase. The rejection response was increased in PSD rats during the estrus and diestrus phases, as compared with PSD-receptive and proestrus females. PSD reduced progesterone levels during the proestrus phase relative to the respective control group during the same phase of the estrous cycle. The PSD-proestrus females that displayed the most robust sexual response exhibited greater concentrations of corticosterone than PSD-diestrus females, with an absence of sexual solicitation behaviors.

Conclusions.  PSD produced a distinct response in the hormonal profile that was consistent with the phase of the estrous cycle. These results show that sleep loss can affect sexual motivation and might lead to important clinical implications, including alterations in female physiology and reproductive abnormalities. Andersen ML, Alvarenga TAF, Guindalini C, Perry JC, Silva A, Zager A, and Tufik S. Paradoxical sleep deprivation influences sexual behavior in female rats. J Sex Med 2009;6:2162–2172.