A quantitative analysis of spindles and spindle-related EEG activity was performed in C57BL/6 mice. The hypothesis that spindles are involved in sleep regulatory mechanisms was tested by investigating their occurrence during 24 h and after 6 h sleep deprivation (SD; n = 7). In the frontal derivation distinct spindle events were characterized as EEG oscillations with a dominant frequency approximately at 11 Hz. Spindles were most prominent during NREM sleep and increased before NREM-REM sleep transitions. Whereas spindles increased concomitantly with slow wave activity (SWA, EEG power between 0.5 and 4.0 Hz) at the beginning of the NREM sleep episode, these measures showed an opposite evolution prior to the transition to REM sleep. The 24-h time course of spindles showed a maximum at the end of the 12-h light period, and was a mirror image of SWA in NREM sleep. After 6 h SD the spindles in NREM sleep were initially suppressed, and showed a delayed rebound. In contrast, spindles occurring immediately before the transition to REM sleep were enhanced during the first 2 h of recovery. The data suggest that spindles in NREM sleep may be involved in sleep maintenance, while spindles heralding the transition to REM sleep may be related to mechanisms of REM sleep initiation.