Heart Rate Variability During Sleep

Authors: P. Bušek;  J. Vaňková;  J. Opavský 1;  J. Salinger 1;  S. Nevšímalová
Authors‘ workplace: Neurologická klinika 1. LF UK a VFN, Praha ;  Katedra fyzioterapie a algoterapie Fakulty tělesné kultury UP, Olomouc 1
Published in: Čas. Lék. čes. 2005; 144: 685-688
Category: Original Article


Changes in the tone of the autonomic nervous system during sleep occur and characterize individual sleep stages and probably also sleep cycles. The spectral analysis of the heart rate variability (SA HRV) is a tool for exact assessment of autonomic nervous activity giving us precise information on the activity of the autonomic nervous system – on its sympathetic and parasympathetic component. 

Methods and Results.
All night polysomnographic recording was performed in 11 healthy subjects, during which the SA HRV was carried out. The total spectral power of the heart rate variability and relative values of its individual components were evaluated: the very low frequency component (VLF), the low frequency component (LF), and high frequency component (HF). The absolute value of the RR-interval duration was assessed. The LF spectral band in normalized units was significantly higher during REM sleep than in non-REM sleep. On the other hand, the HF spectral band in normalized units was significantly higher during non-REM sleep compared to REM sleep. The LF/HF ratio, which reflects the sympathovagal balance, had a maximal value during REM sleep and reached its minimum in non-REM sleep. A gradual lengthening of the RR-interval and lowering of the LF/HF ratio during night was observed. 

The SA HRV showed to be a sensitive method for detection of activity of the autonomic nervous system during sleep. The sympathovagal balance was shifted to prevailing sympathetic activity in REM sleep. On the contrary, during non-REM sleep this balance was shifted towards prevailing parasympathetic influence. A gradual increase of parasympathetic influence during night was also observed. 

Key words:
autonomic nervous system, sleep, heart rate variability.

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