Heart rate variability (HRV) gives information about sympathetic parasympathetic autonomic balance. Our purpose was to determine whether HRV is abnormal in patients with Sjögren's syndrome. In 16 patients with Sjögren's syndrome and 30 matched controls, a short time analysis of HRV was performed for both the frequency and the time domain. In the time domain, patients tended to display a slower heart rate, greater R-R variability and higher standard deviation of the mean (SDNN) than did healthy subjects, but the differences were not statistically significant. In the frequency domain the spectral measures of HRV showed a slight reduction of LF and an increase of HF; as a result, the ratio between high and low frequencies, representative of sympathovagal modulation, was significantly reduced. Our data suggest an increase in the parasympathetic control of heart rate in patients with Sjögren's syndrome. This predominance in vagal tone could exert a protective and antiarrhythmic role in patients with primary Sjögren's syndrome, and may be relevant with reference to the lower incidence of sudden death in this disorder compared to other major autoimmune diseases.