Repeated administration of flurazepam reduced stage 4 sleep (high delta-wave concentration) but produced a greater increase in stage 2 duration so that total sleep time was increased. Computer analysis revealed that the increased amount of stage 2 (low delta-wave concentration) sleep provided a number and duration of delta waves sufficient to offset the loss of delta activity in stage 4. However, the amplitude of the average delta wave was reduced. These results demonstrate the value of direct quantification of delta-wave activity, the variable that underlies visual classification of slow-wave sleep into stages 2 to 4. They also give rise to new hypotheses regarding the relative absence of side effects in spite of profound stage 4 suppression by flurazepam and the mechanisms by which total sleep time is increased by this drug.