Electroencephalographic (EEG) sleep studies represent a research tool that can be used to examine depressed patients over different phases of their illness. We examined the long-term effects of imipramine on EEG sleep in 27 subjects who completed 3 years of maintenance treatment on imipramine without experiencing a recurrence. The analyses were performed on EEG sleep data collected prior to acute treatment, after 3 months in maintenance, and every 3 months thereafter. The major aim was to examine specific changes in rapid eye movement (REM) and slow-wave sleep (SWS) as they unfolded over the course of illness and recovery during long-term drug maintenance. The acute changes in the sleep profile produced by antidepressants remained essentially the same throughout the entire period of drug administration. The REM sleep parameters, which were affected immediately, remained essentially unchanged thereafter, even as long as 3 years into maintenance treatment. A rapid redistribution of slow-wave sleep in the first part of the night was also observed without an increase in the total amount of slow-wave sleep throughout the night. The application of spectral analysis confirmed that the sleep changes following drug administration remained stable throughout all phases of drug treatment. Thus, it appears that sustained clinical improvement is accompanied by persistent sleep alterations on tricyclic antidepressant medication.