High-frequency heart rate variability during worry predicts stress-related increases in sleep disturbances

Sleep Med. 2015 May;16(5):659-64. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2015.02.001. Epub 2015 Feb 7.


Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate whether high-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV) during waking restfulness and during worry predicts increases in sleep disturbances in response to a stressful life event.

Methods: A longitudinal study following up 22 individuals from well-defined periods of lower and higher stress was conducted. HF-HRV during waking restfulness and in response to a worry induction was measured during a low-stress period. Sleep disturbances were assessed using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) during low-stress and high-stress periods.

Results: During both the low- and high-stress periods, lower HF-HRV during worry was associated with greater PSQI scores. Importantly, lower HF-HRV during the worry induction prospectively predicted greater increases in the PSQI score from the low-stress to the high-stress periods.

Conclusion: HF-HRV during worry might represent an index of vulnerability to stress-induced sleep disturbances.

Keywords: Autonomic function; Heart rate variability; Insomnia; Stress; Worry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult