Pharmacopsychiatry 2003; 36 - 254
DOI: 10.1055/s-2003-825497

The youth hormone DHEA: A benefit for pathologic sleep alterations?

T Schiffelholz 1, M Lancel 2, F Holsboer 2
  • 1Klinik für Psychiatrie, Universitìtsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Kiel, Deutschland
  • 2Max-Planck-Institut für Psychiatrie, München, Deutschland

Since a couple of years, the neurosteroid dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulfated conjugate (DHEAS) are intensely discussed as youth hormones reversing age-related organic and intellectual deteriotrations in vertebrates. We therefore tested the effects of DHEA and DHEAS on sleep-wake behavior under physiological and pahtological conditions. Acute DHEAS application moderately changed EEG power densities within non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) without affecting the sleep structure per se. Furthermore, a subchronic DHEA diet was not able to attenuate LPS-induced changes in sleep quality or quantity in young and middle-aged rats. In a third experiment, a DHEA diet was chronically administered over up to one year. Again, there were no benefical effects on age-dependent sleep changes. Nevertheless, chronic DHEA feeding negatively influenced the circadian distribution of delta activity within NREM. Consequently, the chronic intake of DHEA as a youth hormone to prevent natural aging seems very critical, at least concerning the quality of sleep.