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The 24-hr cycle of activity and sleep provides perhaps the most familiar example of circadian rhythms. In mammals, circadian activity rhythms are generated by a master biological clock located in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). This clock is synchronized (entrained) to the external light environment via light input from retinal photoreceptors. However, sleep is not a simple circadian output and also is regulated by a homeostatic process whereby extended wakefulness increases the need for subsequent sleep. As such, the amount and distribution of sleep depends upon the interaction between both circadian and homeostatic processes. Moreover, the study of circadian activity and sleep is not confined only to these specialized fields. Sleep and circadian rhythm disruption is common in many conditions, ranging from neurological and metabolic disorders to aging. Such disruption is associated with a range of negative consequences including cognitive impairment and mood disorders, as well as immune and metabolic dysfunction. As circadian activity and sleep are hallmarks of normal healthy physiology, they also provide valuable welfare indicators. However, traditional methods for the monitoring of circadian rhythms and sleep in mice can require separate specialized resources as well as significant expertise. Here, we outline a low-cost, non-invasive, and open-source method for the simultaneous assessment of circadian activity and sleep in mice. This protocol describes both the assembly of the hardware used and the capture and analysis of data without the need for expertise in electronics or data processing. © 2020 Wiley Periodicals LLC. Basic Protocol: Assembly of a PIR system for basic activity and sleep recordings Alternate Protocol: Data collection using Raspberry Pi Support Protocol: Circadian analysis using PIR sensors.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Protoc Mouse Biol

Publication Date





circadian, home-cage monitoring, refinement, sleep, welfare