Abstract Sleeping disease (SD) is a serious disease of rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, reared in fresh water caused by sleeping disease virus (SDV). In this study a detailed clinical, histological, virological and serological description of the experimental reproduction of SD in 1-year-old rainbow trout exposed to SDV was carried out. Two hundred disease-free fish were intraperitoneally inoculated with a SDV isolate and 100 fish were inoculated with an uninfected cell culture lysate as a negative control. Infected and control fish were randomly removed at days 4, 7, 14, 21, 42 and 70 post-infection. Blood and tissues were collected for virus isolation, histopathological examination and serum neutralization. SDV was detected in serum, kidney and brain of infected fish from 4 to 21 days post-infection (dpi). Characteristic pathological lesions were observed in infected fish as early as 7 dpi. Lesions were first detected in exocrine pancreas and subsequently observed in heart and skeletal muscle. Neutralizing antibodies to SDV were detected in infected fish from 14 to 70 dpi. Infected fish displayed typical signs of SD 1-month pi and the mortality reached 18.7% within 44 days. This study experimentally reproduced all the pathognomonic features of natural outbreaks of SD in 1-year-old rainbow trout.