Slow-wave sleep and androgens: selective slow-wave sleep
suppression affects testosterone and 17a-hydroxyprogesterone

Yu.V. Ukraintseva a, *, K.M. Liaukovich a, e, А.A. Polishchuk a, b, О.V. Martynova a, e,
D.A. Belov d, E.S. Simenel d, М. Meira e Cruz c, А.N. Nizhnik d

a Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Butlerova St. 5A, 117485, Moscow, Russia
b Department of Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Leninskiye Gory, 1-12, 119234, Moscow, Russia
c Sleep Unit of Cardiovascular Center of University of Lisbon, Faculty of Medicine, Alameda da Universidade 1649-004 Lisbon, Portugal
d ArhiMed Clinique for New Medical Technologies, Vavilova St. 68/2, 119261, Moscow, Russia
e Centre for Cognition and Decision Making, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Myasnickaya St. 20, 101000, Moscow, Russia

Objectives: Levels of steroid hormones such as androgens and cortisol exhibit circadian variation, and
their fluctuations are related to the sleep-wake cycle. Currently, the functional role of different stages of
sleep in steroid hormone secretion remains unclear. The present study aims to explore the effect of slowwave
sleep (SWS) suppression on morning levels of cortisol and androgens.
Methods: Twelve healthy male volunteers participated in two experimental sessions: a session with
selective SWS suppression during night sleep and a session with regular night sleep (control). SWS
suppression was achieved by stimulation using an acoustic tone. Salivary samples were collected in the
morning immediately after awakening and again 40 min later. The samples were analysed by liquid
chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry for testosterone, androstenedione (Ad), dehydroepiandrosterone
(DHEA), 17a-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP), and cortisol.
Results: SWS suppression reduced overall SWS duration by 54.2% without significant changes in total
sleep time and sleep efficiency. In the session with selective SWS suppression, the average level of
morning testosterone was lower than in the control session (p ¼ 0.017). Likewise, 17-OHP was lower in
the SWS suppression condition (p ¼ 0.011) whereas the ratio of DHEA/Ad was higher (p ¼ 0.025). There
were no significant differences between sessions in cortisol, Ad, or DHEA concentrations.
Conclusions: The effect of selective SWS suppression on morning levels of testosterone and 17-OHP
points to the importance of SWS for the synthesis and secretion of androgens. These results suggest
that chronic sleep problems, which lead to reduced SWS, increase the risk for the development of
androgen deficiency in the long term.

Sleep Medicine 48 (2018) 117-126