Spontaneous K-complexes in chronic psychophysiological insomnia

J Psychosom Res. 2009 Aug;67(2):117-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2009.01.014. Epub 2009 Apr 1.


Objective: Spontaneous K-complexes are electroencephalographic features unique to non-rapid eye movement sleep. It has been suggested that this phasic event is a sleep-protective mechanism. Because insomnia sufferers report poor sleep quantity and quality, the objective of this study was to document the occurrence of spontaneous K-complexes in Stage 2 sleep of individuals with chronic insomnia. Specifically, the number and density of spontaneous K-complexes were studied in psychophysiological insomnia sufferers.

Setting: This study took place in a sleep and event-related potentials laboratory.

Design: Spontaneous K-complexes were scored during Stage 2 sleep on the second and third nights of a four-consecutive-nights protocol of polysomnographic recordings.

Participants: The sample included 14 participants suffering from psychophysiological insomnia (INS group; mean age=44.1 years) and 14 good sleepers (mean age=38.1 years). Participants underwent sleep and psychological evaluations. INS group participants met the diagnostic criteria for primary psychophysiological insomnia (mean duration of insomnia=9.6 years).

Intervention: Not applicable.

Results: The total number of spontaneous K-complexes and the density according to the total time spent in Stage 2 sleep (spontaneous K-complexes per minute) were compiled. Repeated-measures analyses of variance showed no significant difference in the number and density of spontaneous K-complexes between the INS group (313.98 and 2.66) and the GS group (361.10 and 2.88), respectively.

Conclusion: These results suggest no deficiency in the sleep-protective mechanism of psychophysiological insomnia sufferers in comparison with good sleepers, as measured by the spontaneous K-complexes' number and density.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / diagnosis
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires