Acute effects of melatonin on spontaneous and picrotoxin-evoked sleep–wake behaviour in the rat
Various studies indicate that exogenous melatonin has hypnotic properties in humans, which may be mediated by its influence on the circadian timing system or direct sleep-promoting actions, e.g. through a modulation of GABAergic transmission. The aim of the present placebo-controlled study was to examine the effects of melatonin on sleep in rats and the contribution of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)A receptors. Sleep–wake behaviour was assessed in nine rats after intraperitoneal (i.p.) administration of pharmacological doses of melatonin (5 and 10 mg kg–1) and after combined administration of the GABAA receptor antagonist picrotoxin (1.5 mg kg–1) and melatonin (10 mg kg–1). To prevent chronobiotic effects, melatonin was delivered in the middle of the light period. Neither doses of melatonin exerted significant effects on brain temperature, sleep architecture or sleep electroencephalogram (EEG). Moreover, melatonin failed to attenuate the picrotoxin-induced promotion of wakefulness. These observations indicate that melatonin hardly influences sleep–wake behaviour in rats.