Alpha-delta sleep in patients with a chief complaint of chronic fatigue

South Med J. 1994 Apr;87(4):465-70. doi: 10.1097/00007611-199404000-00008.


Our prospective, standardized cohort study was designed to assess the presence of alpha wave intrusions during non-rapid eye movement sleep (alpha-delta sleep) and its relationship to fibromyalgia, major depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in patients with a chief complaint of chronic fatigue. The study group comprised 30 consecutive patients seen at a university hospital referral clinic for evaluation of chronic fatigue. All patients had nocturnal polysomnography, dolorimetric tender point assessment for fibromyalgia, a comprehensive history, physical, and laboratory evaluation, and a structured psychiatric interview. Alpha-delta sleep was identified in 8 of the 30 patients (26%), major depression in 20 (67%), CFS in 15 (50%), and fibromyalgia in 4 (13%). Ten of the 30 patients (33%) had a primary sleep disorder (sleep apnea, periodic limb movements, or narcolepsy). Alpha-delta sleep was not significantly correlated with fibromyalgia, CFS, major depression, or primary sleep disorders, but was significantly more common among patients who had chronic fatigue without major depression. We conclude that primary sleep disorders are relatively common among patients with chronic fatigue and must be diligently sought and treated. Alpha-delta sleep is not a marker of fibromyalgia or CFS, but may contribute to the illness of nondepressed patients with these conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alpha Rhythm*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Delta Rhythm*
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Panic Disorder / physiopathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology