The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 12 No. 3 • June 2009

Sleep Deprivation: Curcumin Protects Against Behavioral Alterations and Oxidative Damage in 72 Hour Sleep-Deprived Mice

Imagine that you were kept awake for 72 hours. You could expect to have symptoms similar to 72 hour sleep-deprived mice: anxiety-like behavior, oxidative damage (such as increased lipid peroxidation and decreased glutathione and catalase activity), impaired locomotor activity, and possibly weight loss. Moreover, persistent sleep deprivation is considered a risk factor for a number of neurological disorders, including depression and memory dysfunction. A new paper1 reports that curcumin protected 72 hour sleep-deprived mice from these symptoms.

As the authors explain, “sleep deprivation stimulates hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis resulting in an increased production of corticosterone that leads to cell damage.” Excess corticosteroids are known to cause neuronal damage and, hence, impair cognitive function. Curcumin is a powerful scavenger of the superoxide anion, the hydroxyl radical, nitrogen dioxide, and protects against singlet-oxygen-induced DNA strand breaks.1

Mice were 72 hour sleep deprived and received 10 and 20 mg/kg, i.p., curcumin extract treatment (begun two days before 72 hour sleep deprivation) or placebo. Some of the curcumin-treated mice also received supplemental L-arginine (50 mg/kg, i.p.) to test the hypothesis that the modulation of nitric oxide release was associated with the symptoms of sleep deprivation. The results showed that the curcumin treatment significantly decreased the sleep-deprived-induced anxiety-like behavior and oxidative stress and improved the impaired locomotor activity compared to control mice. However, interestingly, L-arginine pretreatment combined with the 10 mg/kg curcumin treatment resulted in a significant decrease in the protective effects compared to curcumin alone. The authors consider this to indicate that nitric oxide release is associated with the effects of sleep deprivation.

The study does not report what type of nitric oxide synthase is responsible for the excess nitric oxide release associated with sleep deprivation, that is, whether it is the inducible nitric oxide synthase associated with inflammation or nitric oxide produced by neuronal nitric oxide synthase or that produced by the endothelial nitric oxide synthase.

The results suggest that, if taking curcumin to help overcome the negative effects of sleep deprivation, take separately from an L-arginine supplement. After a poor night’s sleep, we take curcumin the morning after and L-arginine later that day.

The least expensive way to take curcumin (and a method we use) is to take it as whole ground turmeric root (the spice used in cooking, especially heavily in Indian food). One benefit of this source of curcumin (about 40% of ground turmeric is curcumin) is that it contains, in addition to curcumin, chemically related molecules called curcuminoids that are also beneficial.2,3 We generally take 2 capsules of ground turmeric (each containing 600 mg) 3 or 4 times/day in our Turmeric Root Power™ as well as getting more in our brain maintenance formulation GalantaMind Plus™ capsules (no taste!) If you are taking GalantaMind Plus, you are getting 92.8 mg. curcumin (in 2 capsules/day) or 139.2 mg curcumin (in 3 capsules/day) from turmeric root powder.


  1. Kumar and Singh. Possible nitric oxide modulation in protective effect of (Curcuma longa, Zingiberaceae) against sleep-deprivation-induced behavioral alterations and oxidative damage in mice. Phytomedicine 15:577-86 (2008).
  2. Niranjan and Prakash. Chemical constituents and biological activities of turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) — A review. J Food Sci Toxicol 45(2):109-16 (2008).
  3. Rastogi et al. Curcuminoids modulates oxidative damage and mitochondrial dysfunction in diabetic rat brain. Free Radic Res 42(11-12):999-1005 (2008).

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