Comparison of detrended fluctuation analysis and spectral analysis for heart rate variability in sleep and sleep apnea

IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2003 Oct;50(10):1143-51. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2003.817636.


Sleep has been regarded as a testing situation for the autonomic nervous system, because its activity is modulated by sleep stages. Sleep-related breathing disorders also influence the autonomic nervous system and can cause heart rate changes known as cyclical variation. We investigated the effect of sleep stages and sleep apnea on autonomic activity by analyzing heart rate variability (HRV). Since spectral analysis is suited for the identification of cyclical variations and detrended fluctuation analysis can analyze the scaling behavior and detect long-range correlations, we compared the results of both complementary techniques in 14 healthy subjects, 33 patients with moderate, and 31 patients with severe sleep apnea. The spectral parameters VLF, LF, HF, and LF/HF confirmed increasing parasympathetic activity from wakefulness and REM over light sleep to deep sleep, which is reduced in patients with sleep apnea. Discriminance analysis was used on a person and sleep stage basis to determine the best method for the separation of sleep stages and sleep apnea severity. Using spectral parameters 69.7% of the apnea severity assignments and 54.6% of the sleep stage assignments were correct, while using scaling analysis these numbers increased to 74.4% and 85.0%, respectively. We conclude that changes in HRV are better quantified by scaling analysis than by spectral analysis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms*
  • Electrocardiography / methods
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Polysomnography / methods*
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / classification*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Sleep Stages*
  • Statistics as Topic