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J Sleep Res. 2004 Sep;13(3):279-84.

Analysis of postarousal EEG activity during somnambulistic episodes.

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  • 1Centre d'étude du sommeil, Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Early studies found that electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings during somnambulistic episodes were characterized by a combination of alpha, theta, and delta frequencies, without evidence of clear wakefulness. Three postarousal EEG patterns associated with slow-wave sleep (SWS) arousals were recently identified in adults with sleepwalking and sleep terrors. The goal of the present study was to evaluate the distribution of these postarousal EEG patterns in 10 somnambulistic patients (three males, seven females, mean age: 25.1, SD: 4.1) evaluated at baseline and following 38 h of sleep deprivation. A total of 44 behavioral arousals were recorded in the laboratory; seven episodes at baseline (five from SWS, two from stage 2 sleep) and 37 episodes during recovery sleep (30 from SWS, seven from stage 2 sleep). There was no significant difference in the distribution of postarousal EEG patterns identified during baseline and recovery sleep. One pattern, comprised of diffuse rhythmic and synchronous delta activity, was preferentially associated with relatively simple behavioral episodes but did not occur during episodes from stage 2 sleep. Overall, delta activity was detected in 48% of the behavioral episodes from SWS and in 22% of those from stage 2. There was no evidence of complete awakening during any of the episodes. The results support the view of somnambulism as a disorder of arousal and suggest that sleepwalkers' atypical arousal reactions can manifest themselves in stage 2 sleep in addition to SWS.

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