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Neuroscience. 2006;138(1):351-6. Epub 2006 Jan 4.

Trait-like individual differences in the human sleep electroencephalogram.

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  • 1Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Center for Integrative Human Physiology, University of Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland.


We aimed to examine whether commonly observed individual differences in sleep architecture and the sleep electroencephalogram reflect individual traits, which are amenable to a genetic investigation of human sleep. We studied intra-individual stability and inter-individual variation in sleep and sleep electroencephalogram spectra across four baseline recordings of eight healthy young men. A similarity concept based on Euclidean distances between vectors was applied. Visually scored sleep variables served as feature vector components, along with electroencephalogram power spectra in non-rapid-eye-movement and rapid-eye-movement sleep. The distributions of similarity coefficients of feature vectors revealed a clear distinction between high within-subject similarity (i.e. stability), and low between-subject similarity (i.e. variation). Moreover, a cluster analysis based on electroencephalogram spectra in both non-rapid-eye-movement and rapid-eye-movement sleep segregated all four baseline nights of each individual into a distinct cluster. To investigate whether high and low sleep pressure affects the similarity coefficients, normalized non-rapid-eye-movement sleep electroencephalogram spectra of the first and second half of the recordings were compared. Because the electroencephalogram changes systematically in the course of the night, within-subject variation no longer differed from between-subject variation. In conclusion, our data provide evidence for trait-like characteristics in the sleep electroencephalogram. Further studies may help to identify distinct phenotypes to search for genes underlying functional aspects of undisturbed human sleep.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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