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Free Content Copulatory activity increases slow-wave sleep in the male rat

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It is believed that sexual activity increases the need to sleep in many species. However, the relationship between copulatory activity and sleep has been poorly studied. Several studies have observed variations in the sleep of female rats and women as a function of their reproductive state. These effects have been correlated with the effects of female steroid hormones, but not with sexual activity. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the sleep–wake pattern of male rats immediately after different conditions of copulatory activity. Sexually experienced male rats were chronically implanted with a standard set of electrodes for sleep recording. After a control sleep recording of 8 h, the males were randomly assigned to one of the following experimental conditions: 30 min in the presence of an ovariectomized (OVX) rat; 30 min in the presence of an intact non-receptive female (NRF); with a receptive female until reaching one ejaculation (1E); and with a receptive female until reaching three ejaculations (3E). In addition, after 10 days, males were randomly exposed to one of the following copulatory conditions during 4 h: to remain in the presence of an OVX rat; to remain in the presence of an NRF female, and with receptive females until reaching sexual satiety (SS). Male sexual behavior was assessed just after the onset of the dark period, and sleep recordings were obtained during 8 h immediately after experimental testing. Both the three ejaculations group (3E) in the first experiment and the sexual satiety group (SS) in the second experiment showed enhanced percentages of time spent in slow wave sleep (SWS) II and a shorter latency to the first SWS II episode than in the control group or under basal conditions. In addition, neither the presence of a non-receptive female or an OVX female, nor sexual behavior until reaching one ejaculation induced any effect on the sleep stages. These findings suggest that the increase in SWS II induced by both 3E and SS may be governed by some specific mechanism that is essentially independent of physical exercise or stress. Copulatory activity might be the source of neurohormonal processes that induce sleep and may involve the participation of gamma-aminobutyric acid, serotonin or other endogenous regulators of sleep and wakefulness. Nevertheless, the precise mechanism by which the sexual behavior increases SWS is still to be determined.
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Keywords: copulatory activity; rat; sexual behavior; sexual satiety; sleep; slow wave sleep

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Reproductive Biology, Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa, Mexico City, Mexico

Publication date: 2002-09-01

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