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Sleep in obsessive compulsive disorder

Polysomnographic studies under baseline conditions and after experimentally induced serotonin deficiency

Abstract

Several lines of evidence suggest that brain serotonergic systems may be disturbed in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The serotonergic system strongly affects sleep and characteristic abnormalities of sleep are documented in depression. This study, therefore, aimed to investigate sleep structure of OCD patients in order to evaluate whether similar changes as in depression are present. Up to now, this issue has been addressed only in few studies with small numbers of patients. Sleep patterns of 62 unmedicated patients with primary OCD and 62 age- and sex-matched healthy controls were investigated by polysomnography. Additionally, the impact of tryptophan depletion on sleep was studied in a subgroup of 12 OCD patients and 12 controls. The OCD patients exhibited moderate, but significant disturbances of sleep continuity measures but no abnormalities of slow wave sleep or REM sleep, except a significant elevation of 1st REM density. Tryptophan depletion induced a worsening of sleep continuity, but no changes of REM sleep or slow wave sleep. Assuming that changes of sleep architecture indicate underlying neurobiological abnormalities, this study indicates that neurobiological disturbances are different in primary OCD as compared with primary depression.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Gerda Deeb, Claudine Heinrich and Evelyne Hoffmann for careful analysis of polysomnographic recordings, Sabine Ecker for statistical analysis, and Gerald Huether for determination of serum tryptophan concentrations.

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Correspondence to Ulrich Voderholzer MD.

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Voderholzer, U., Riemann, D., Huwig-Poppe, C. et al. Sleep in obsessive compulsive disorder. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 257, 173–182 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-006-0708-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-006-0708-9

Key words

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • polysomnography
  • sleep
  • tryptophan depletion test
  • serotonin
  • treatment