To study the role of adenosine in sleep regulation, the adenosine A1 receptor agonist N6-cyclopentyladenosine (CPA) and the antagonist caffeine were administered to rats. Intraperitoneal (i.p.) CPA 1 mg/kg but not 0.1 mg/kg, suppressed rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep and enhanced electroencephalographic (EEG) slow-wave activity (power density 0.75-4.0 Hz) in non-REM sleep. The latter effect was remarkably similar to the response to 6-h sleep deprivation. The effects persisted when CPA-induced hypothermia was prevented. Caffeine (10 and 15 mg/kg i.p.) elicited a dose-dependent increase in waking followed by a prolonged increase of slow-wave activity in non-REM sleep. The combination of caffeine (15 mg/kg) and sleep deprivation caused less increase in slow-wave activity than sleep deprivation alone, indicating that caffeine may reduce the buildup of sleep pressure during waking. The results are consistent with the involvement of adenosine in the regulation of non-REM sleep.