The golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) has been a model organism for the study of circadian rhythmicity and, in particular, the effects of age on the circadian system. Surprisingly, nothing is known about the effects of advanced age on sleep in this species. As a first step in determining the effects of aging on sleep in the golden hamster, we recorded sleep for 24 hours in 12 young (3 months) and 18 old (17-18 months) golden hamsters entrained to a 14:10 light:dark (LD) cycle. Aged hamsters exhibited small but significant increases in overall NREM sleep time, primarily due to an increase in time the old animals spent in the NREM sleep state during the dark period relative to the young hamsters. There were no significant differences in REM sleep, median sleep episode length, or the number of arousals. The most striking differences between the sleep of young and old hamsters was in NREM delta (0.5-4 Hz) power per epoch. Old hamsters showed approximately 27% less (p=0.0004) delta power per NREM epoch than young hamsters. It is possible that increased NREM sleep time in the old hamsters may be a failed attempt to maintain cumulative delta power; ie, old hamsters may have more NREM sleep in order to make up for the lower intensity of their sleep. This decline in delta power with age parallels earlier findings in cats and humans, although has it not been previously reported in rodents.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Neurology
- Physiology (medical)