Ultradian oscillations in cranial thermoregulation and electroencephalographic slow-wave activity during sleep are abnormal in humans with annual winter depression

Brain Res. 2000 Jun 2;866(1-2):152-67. doi: 10.1016/s0006-8993(00)02271-x.


The level of core body, and presumably brain temperature during sleep varies with clinical state in patients with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), becoming elevated during winter depression and lowered during clinical remission induced by either light treatment or summer. During sleep, brain temperatures are in part determined by the level of brain cooling activity, which may be reflected by facial skin temperatures. In many animals, the level of brain cooling activity oscillates across the NREM-REM sleep cycle. Facial skin temperatures during sleep in patients with winter depression are abnormally low and uncorrelated with rectal temperatures, although their relationship to EEG-defined sleep stages remains unknown. We therefore measured the sleep EEG, core body and facial skin temperatures in 23 patients with winter depression and 23 healthy controls, and tested the hypothesis that ultradian oscillations in facial skin temperatures exist in humans and are abnormal in patients with winter depression. We found that facial skin temperatures oscillated significantly across the NREM-REM sleep cycle, and were again significantly lower and uncorrelated with rectal temperatures in patients with winter depression. Mean slow-wave activity and NREM episode duration were significantly greater in patients with winter depression, whereas the intraepisodic dynamics of slow-wave activity were normal in patients with winter depression. These results suggest that brain cooling activity oscillates in an ultradian manner during sleep in humans and is reduced during winter depression, and provide additional support for the hypothesis that brain temperatures are elevated during winter depression.

MeSH terms

  • Activity Cycles / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder / psychology
  • Skin Temperature / physiology
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology