Evidence suggests that IL-1beta is involved in promoting physiological nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. IL-1beta has also been proposed to mediate NREM sleep enhancement induced by bacteria or their components. Mature and biologically active IL-1beta is cleaved from an inactive precursor by a cysteinyl aspartate-specific protease (caspase)-1. This study aimed to test the hypothesis that inhibition in brain of the cleavage of biologically active IL-1beta will reduce in rats both spontaneous NREM sleep and NREM sleep enhancement induced by the peripheral administration of components of the bacterial cell wall. To test this hypothesis, rats were intracerebroventricularly administered the caspase-1 inhibitor Ac-Tyr-Val-Ala-Asp chloromethyl ketone (YVAD; 3, 30, 300, and 1,500 ng) or were pretreated intracerebroventricularly with YVAD (300 ng) and then intraperitoneally injected with the gram-negative bacterial cell wall component LPS (250 microg/kg). Subsequent sleep-wake behavior was determined by standard polygraphic recordings. YVAD administration at the beginning of the light phase of the light-dark cycle significantly reduced time spontaneously spent in NREM sleep during the first 12 postinjection hours. YVAD pretreatment also completely prevented NREM sleep enhancement induced by peripheral LPS administration at the beginning of the dark phase. These results, in agreement with previous evidence, support the involvement of brain IL-1beta in physiological promotion of NREM sleep and in mediating NREM sleep enhancement induced by peripheral immune challenge.