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Gastroenterology. 1994 Nov;107(5):1372-81.

Relationship between sleep patterns and human colonic motor patterns.

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  • 1Department of Gastroenterology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, University of Adelaide, Australia.



The precise relationships among colonic motor patterns, depth of sleep, and awakening are incompletely understood. The aim of this study was to correlate human colonic motor patterns with sleep stage, nocturnal arousals, and waking.


We monitored sleep and correlated sleep stage, arousals, and waking with pressures (area under curve and propagating contractions) recorded from the entire colon in 11 healthy volunteers.


Propagating contraction frequency (P = 0.01) and area under the curve (P = 0.001) were significantly reduced at night. There was a highly significant correlation between depth of sleep and suppression of area under curve (P = 0.001) and propagating contraction frequency (P = 0.0001). Propagating contractions were eliminated during slow-wave sleep. During rapid eye movement sleep, colonic pressure and propagating contraction frequency increased sharply to levels comparable with those found in stage 2 sleep. Transient arousal from stable sleep, with or without waking, was a potent and immediate stimulus for colonic propagating contractions.


Sleep per se has a profound inhibitory effect on propagating and nonpropagating activity and is the major determinant of diurnal variation of colonic motility. Propagating contractions are eliminated in slow-wave sleep. Rapid eye movement sleep, arousals, and waking have immediate stimulatory effects on colonic motility.

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