Nocturnal cardiac autonomic profile in young primary insomniacs and good sleepers

Int J Psychophysiol. 2014 Sep;93(3):332-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2014.06.014. Epub 2014 Jul 3.


We investigated cardiac vagal and sympathetic activity in 13 young primary insomniacs (PI; 24.4±1.6years) and 14 good sleepers (GS; 23.3±2.5years) during nocturnal sleep. Pre-ejection period (PEP; inversely related to beta-adrenergic sympathetic activity), interval between consecutive R-waves (RR), and vagal-related indices of time- and frequency-domain heart rate variability were computed during pre-sleep wakefulness and undisturbed arousal-free sleep stages (N2, SWS, REM) as well as across the whole night irrespective of the presence of disruptive sleep events (e.g. sleep arousals/awakenings) and/or sleep stage transitions. Groups exhibited a similar vagal activity throughout each undisturbed sleep stage as well as considering the whole night, with a higher modulation during sleep compared to prior wakefulness. However, PEP was constantly shorter (higher sympathetic activity) during pre-sleep wakefulness and each sleep stage in PI compared to GS. Moreover, pre-sleep RR intervals were positively associated with sleep efficiency and negatively associated with wake after sleep onset in PI. Altogether our findings indicated a dysfunctional sympathetic activity but a normal parasympathetic modulation before and during sleep in young adults with insomnia.

Keywords: Activity; Heart rate variability; Hyper-arousal; Impedance cardiography; Insomnia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Cardiography, Impedance
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / pathology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult