Abstract

Sleep in depressed patients resembles sleep in normal subjects whose circadian rhythms of temperature and rapid-eye-movement sleep are phase-advanced (shifted earlier) relative to their sleep schedules. If this analogy is relevant to the pathophysiology of depressive illness, advancing the time of sleep and awakening should temporarily compensate for the abnormal timing of depressed patients' circadian rhythms. Four of seven manic-depressive patients studied longitudinally spontaneously advanced their times of awakening (activity onset) as they emerged from the depressive phase of their illness. In a phase-shift experiment, a depressed manic-depressive woman was twice brought out of depression for 2 weeks by advancing her sleep period so that she went to sleep and arose 6 hours earlier than usual. The antidepressant effect of the procedure was temporary and similar in duration to circadian desynchronization induced by jet lag in healthy subjects. This result supports the hypothesis that abnormalities of sleep patterns in some types of depression are due to abnormal internal phase relationships of circadian rhythms.

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