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Elusive hypersomnolence in seasonal affective disorder: actigraphic and self-reported sleep in and out of depressive episodes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 July 2021

Delainey L. Wescott
Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Peter L. Franzen
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Brant P. Hasler
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Megan A. Miller
Rehabilitation Care Services, VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, Seattle, WA, USA
Adriane M. Soehner
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Stephen F. Smagula
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Meredith L. Wallace
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA Department of Statistics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Martica H. Hall
Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Kathryn A. Roecklein*
Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA Center for the Neural Basis of Behavior, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Author for correspondence: Kathryn A. Roecklein, E-mail:



Hypersomnolence has been considered a prominent feature of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) despite mixed research findings. In the largest multi-season study conducted to date, we aimed to clarify the nature and extent of hypersomnolence in SAD using multiple measurements during winter depressive episodes and summer remission.


Sleep measurements assessed in individuals with SAD and nonseasonal, never-depressed controls included actigraphy, daily sleep diaries, retrospective self-report questionnaires, and self-reported hypersomnia assessed via clinical interviews. To characterize hypersomnolence in SAD we (1) compared sleep between diagnostic groups and seasons, (2) examined correlates of self-reported hypersomnia in SAD, and (3) assessed agreement between commonly used measurement modalities.


In winter compared to summer, individuals with SAD (n = 64) reported sleeping 72 min longer based on clinical interviews (p < 0.001) and 23 min longer based on actigraphy (p = 0.011). Controls (n = 80) did not differ across seasons. There were no seasonal or group differences on total sleep time when assessed by sleep diaries or retrospective self-reports (p's > 0.05). Endorsement of winter hypersomnia in SAD participants was predicted by greater fatigue, total sleep time, time in bed, naps, and later sleep midpoints (p's < 0.05).


Despite a winter increase in total sleep time and year-round elevated daytime sleepiness, the average total sleep time (7 h) suggest hypersomnolence is a poor characterization of SAD. Importantly, self-reported hypersomnia captures multiple sleep disruptions, not solely lengthened sleep duration. We recommend using a multimodal assessment of hypersomnolence in mood disorders prior to sleep intervention.

Original Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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