Total sleep deprivation (TSD) shows powerful but transient clinical effects in patients affected by bipolar depression. Pindolol blocks the serotonergic 5-HT1A autoreceptor, thus improving the antidepressant effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. We evaluated the interaction of TSD and pindolol in the treatment of acute episodes of bipolar depression. Forty bipolar depressed inpatients were randomized to receive pindolol 7.5 mg/day or placebo for nine days in combination with three consecutive TSD cycles. Pindolol significantly improved the antidepressant effect of TSD, and prevented the short-term relapse after treatment. The response rate (HDRS scores < 8) at the end of treatment was 15/20 for pindolol, and 3/20 for placebo. Coadministration of pindolol and TSD resulted in a complete response, which could be sustained for six months with lithium salts alone, in 65% of cases. This results suggest a major role for serotonergic transmission in the mechanism of action of TSD, and makes TSD treatment more effective in the treatment of bipolar depression.