Sleep EEG Provides Biomarkers in Depression

  • Mayumi Kimura
  • Axel Steiger


Patients with depression frequently report impaired sleep. Objective sleep is recorded by sleep electroencephalogram (EEG). Characteristic sleep-EEG changes in affective disorders include disinhibition of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep (shortened REM latency, prolonged first REM periods, elevated REM density, and a measure of the amount of REMs), impaired sleep continuity and changes of nonREM sleep (decreases of slow wave sleep and stage 2 sleep). Disinhibition of REM sleep is also found in animal models of depression. Elevated REM density characterises an endophenotype in high-risk subjects with a positive family history of affective disorders. Most, but not all, antidepressants suppress REM sleep in patients, healthy volunteers and laboratory animals, whereas nonREM sleep and sleep continuity are either impaired or improved by these drugs. Certain sleep-EEG variables or groups of variables appear to predict the response to antidepressive pharmacotherapy or the long-term course of the illness. Overactivity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical system contributes to the sleep-EEG changes in depression. Sleep-EEG variables appear to provide biomarkers for the course of depression and for the screening of antidepressants.


Slow Wave Sleep nonREM Sleep Delta Power Sleep Continuity Intermittent Wakefulness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Adenocorticotropic hormone


Corticotropin-releasing hormone

DEX-CRH test

Dexamethasone/corticotropin-releasing hormone test




High anxiety-related behavior mice


Hamilton Depression Score

HL mice

Helpless mice

HPA system

Hypothalamo-pituitary adrenocortical system


5-Hydroxytryptamine (=serotonin)

LAB mice

Low anxiety-related behavior mice


Selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors


Nonhelpless mice


Rapid eye movement


Shortened REM latency or sleep onset REM periods


Selective serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors


Slow-wave activity


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neurogenetics of SleepMax Planck Institute of PsychiatryMunichGermany

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