The impact of chronic primary insomnia on the heart rate--EEG variability link

Clin Neurophysiol. 2009 Jun;120(6):1054-60. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2009.03.019. Epub 2009 Apr 28.


Objective: To determine if chronic insomnia alters the relationship between heart rate variability and delta sleep determined at the EEG.

Methods: After one night of accommodation, polysomnography was performed in 14 male patients with chronic primary insomnia matched with 14 healthy men. ECG and EEG recordings allowed the determination of High Frequency (HF) power of RR-interval and delta sleep EEG power across the first three Non Rapid Eye Movement (NREM)-REM cycles. Interaction between normalized HF RR-interval variability and normalized delta sleep EEG power was studied by coherency analysis.

Results: Patients showed increased total number of awakenings, longer sleep latency and wake durations and shorter sleep efficiency and REM duration than controls (p<.01). Heart rate variability across first three NREM-REM cycles and sleep stages (NREM, REM and awake) were similar between both groups. In each group, normalized HF variability of RR-interval decreased from NREM to both REM and awake. Patients showed decreased linear relationship between normalized HF RR-interval variability and delta EEG power, expressed by decreased coherence, in comparison to controls (p<.05). Gain and phase shift between these signals were similar between both groups.

Conclusions: Interaction between changes in cardiac autonomic activity and delta power is altered in chronic primary insomniac patients, even in the absence of modifications in heart rate variability and cardiovascular diseases.

Significance: This altered interaction could reflect the first step to cardiovascular disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease
  • Delta Rhythm
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology
  • Young Adult