To outline the clinical and polysomnographic changes induced by nefazodone in patients with seasonal affective disorder.
Twelve patients were enrolled, and 9 of them studied, in an open-label trial with objective and subjective measurements. The mean age of the studied patients was 45 (range 35–58) years. They met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV), criteria for major depressive disorder and current major depressive episode with seasonal patterns. The patients' mean baseline score on the Seasonal Patterns Assessment Questionnaire (SPAQ) was 15.7 (standard deviation [SD] 5.3). The total nefazodone treatment period was 8 weeks, and the daily dosages were 100 mg in week 1, 200 mg in week 2, 300 mg in week 3, and up to 400 mg in weeks 4–8. Each patient received the 29-item version of the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D), the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety (HAM-A) and 2-night polysomnographic assessments on 3 occasions: before treatment (baseline, W0), at the end of week 4 (W4) and at the end of week 8 (W8).
There were statistically significant improvements in depression, anxiety, sleep latency and sleep efficiency during the 8-week treatment protocol. Repeated-measures analysis of variance results indicated that nefazodone has a time-dependent effect on both HAM-D and HAM-A scores. After 8 weeks of nefazodone therapy, HAM-D scores decreased from 33.4 (SD 8.1) to 11.6 (SD 5.6) (F2,14 = 13.68, p = 0.001) and HAM-A decreased from 26.6 (SD 7.0) to 11.5 (SD 11.1) (F2,14 = 13.46, p = 0.001). The results of paired t tests show that, compared with baseline, HAM-D and HAM-A scores decreased at both W4 (p = 0.004 and p = 0.002, respectively) and W8 (p = 0.002 and p = 0.005, respectively). The time-dependent effects on stage 1 sleep (F2,16 = 6.06, p = 0.011) and periodic leg movement index (F2,16 = 4.31, p = 0.035) were also significant. The mean sleep latency of these patients decreased from 39.9 (SD 32.7) minutes at W0 to 16.6 (SD 15.3) minutes at W8 (p < 0.05). Sleep efficiency increased from 78.8% (SD 14.6%) at W0 to 91.5% (SD 5.5%) at W8 (p < 0.05). Stage 1 sleep decreased from 4.9% (SD 1.9%) at W0 to 3.4% (SD 2.6%) at W8 (p < 0.05).
The results of this preliminary study indicate that nefazodone not only has favourable antidepressant and anxiolytic effects but also enhances sleep efficiency and sleep latency.
Medical subject headings: depression, nefazodone, polysomnography, seasonal affective disorder, sleep disorders