Immediate postarousal sleep dynamics: an important determinant of sleep stability in obstructive sleep apnea

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2016 Apr 1;120(7):801-8. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00880.2015. Epub 2015 Dec 30.


Arousability from sleep is increasingly recognized as an important determinant of the clinical spectrum of sleep disordered breathing (SDB). Patients with SDB display a wide range of arousability. The reason for these differences is not known. We hypothesized that differences in the speed with which sleep deepens following arousals/awakenings (postarousal sleep dynamics) is a major determinant of these differences in arousability in patients with SDB. We analyzed 40 preexisting clinical polysomnography records from patients with a range of SDB severity (apnea-hypopnea index 5-135/h). Sleep depth was determined every 3 s using the odds ratio product (ORP) method, a continuous index of sleep depth (0 = deep sleep, 2.5 = full wakefulness) that correlates strongly (r = 0.98) with arousability (Younes M, Ostrowski M, Soiferman M, Younes H, Younes M, Raneri J, and Hanly P. Sleep 38: 641-654, 2015). Time course of ORP was determined from end of arousal until the next arousal. All arousals were analyzed (142 ± 65/polysomnogram). ORP increased from 0.58 ± 0.32 during sleep to 1.67 ± 0.35 during arousals. ORP immediately (first 9 s) following arousals/awakenings (ORP-9) ranged from 0.21(very deep sleep) to 1.71 (highly arousable state) in different patients. In patients with high ORP-9, sleep deepened slowly (over minutes) beyond 9 s but only if no arousals/awakenings recurred. ORP-9 correlated strongly with average non-rapid eye movement sleep depth (r = 0.87, P < 2E-13), the arousal/awakening index (r = 0.68, P < 5E-6), and with the apnea-hypopnea index (r = 0.60, P < 0.001). ORP-9 was consistent within each patient and did not change on continuous positive airway pressure despite marked improvement in sleep architecture. We conclude that postarousal sleep dynamics are highly variable among patients with sleep-disordered breathing and largely determine average sleep depth and continuity.

Keywords: arousal index; obstructive sleep apnea sleep quality; odds ratio product.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Wakefulness / physiology