SUMMARY The majority of winter-type seasonal affective disorder (SAD) patients complain of hypersomnia and daytime drowsiness. As human sleep is regulated by the interaction of circadian, ultradian and homeostatic processes, sleep disturbances may be caused by either one of these factors. The present study focuses on homeostatic and ultradian aspects of sleep regulation in SAD. Sleep was recorded polysomnographically in seven SAD patients and matched controls subjected to a 120-h forced desynchrony protocol. In time isolation, subjects were exposed to six 20-h days, each comprising a 6.5-h period for sleep. Patients participated while being depressed, while remitted after light therapy and in summer. Controls were studied in winter and in summer. In each condition, the data of each subject were averaged across all recordings. Thus, the influence of the effects of the circadian pacemaker on sleep was excluded mathematically. The comparison of patients with controls and with themselves in the various conditions revealed no abnormalities in homeostatic parameters: sleep stage variables, relative power spectra and time courses of power in various frequency bands across the first three non-rapid eye movement–rapid eye movement (NREM–REM) cycles showed no differences. The data suggest that homeostatic processes are not involved in the disturbance of sleep in SAD.