The role of repeated nicotine administration on sleep and major depression was studied. Six non-smoking normal volunteers (NV) and six non-smoking major depressed patients (MD) with a Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression > 18 served as subjects. All subjects underwent the following sleep procedures: acclimatization, control night, four nicotine nights (17.5 mg, transdermal patches) and one withdrawal night (WN). Nicotine increased REM sleep time in both groups and also on the WN. Hamilton scores showed an average reduction of 43.9% in the depressed patients. These findings suggest that nicotine receptor activation may be important in major depression and shows for the first time that nicotine patches may be useful in the treatment of depression.