An examination of sleep spindle metrics in the Sleep Heart Health Study: superiority of automated spindle detection over total sigma power in assessing age-related spindle decline

BMC Neurol. 2023 Oct 6;23(1):359. doi: 10.1186/s12883-023-03376-3.


Background: Sleep spindle activity is commonly estimated by measuring sigma power during stage 2 non-rapid eye movement (NREM2) sleep. However, spindles account for little of the total NREM2 interval and therefore sigma power over the entire interval may be misleading. This study compares derived spindle measures from direct automated spindle detection with those from gross power spectral analyses for the purposes of clinical trial design.

Methods: We estimated spindle activity in a set of 8,440 overnight electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings from 5,793 patients from the Sleep Heart Health Study using both sigma power and direct automated spindle detection. Performance of the two methods was evaluated by determining the sample size required to detect decline in age-related spindle coherence with each method in a simulated clinical trial.

Results: In a simulated clinical trial, sigma power required a sample size of 115 to achieve 95% power to identify age-related changes in sigma coherence, while automated spindle detection required a sample size of only 60.

Conclusions: Measurements of spindle activity utilizing automated spindle detection outperformed conventional sigma power analysis by a wide margin, suggesting that many studies would benefit from incorporation of automated spindle detection. These results further suggest that some previous studies which have failed to detect changes in sigma power or coherence may have failed simply because they were underpowered.

Keywords: Drug development; EEG; Sigma Coherence; Sigma Power; Sleep Spindles; Spindle coherence.

MeSH terms

  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Humans
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Sleep Stages*
  • Sleep*