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Clin Neurophysiol. 2004 Jan;115(1):19-28.

Estimating cardiac autonomic activity during sleep: impedance cardiography, spectral analysis, and Poincaré plots.

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Research Laboratory on Sleep, Chronobiology and Neuroendocrinology, Section of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.



To compare noninvasive measures of cardiac autonomic activity during sleep.


The absolute and normalized (n.u.) high and low frequency peaks from the spectral analysis of R-R intervals (HF, LF, HFn.u., LFn.u.), LF/HF ratio, pre-ejection period (PEP) from impedance cardiography, and the autocorrelation coefficient (rRR) as illustrated in Poincaré plots were measured during night-time sleep in 9 young healthy subjects. Heart rate and blood pressure were also recorded.


Heart rate was significantly associated with cardiac sympathetic activity (PEP, average r=-0.46), but not with cardiac parasympathetic activity (HF, average r=-0.17). rRR was significantly associated with heart rate (average r=0.41), and LF/HF (average r=0.69), but not with PEP or HF. From NREM to REM sleep, heart rate, LFn.u., LF and rRR significantly increased, HFn.u. significantly decreased, LF/HF showed an increasing trend (P=0.07) and PEP showed a decreasing trend (P=0.06). Blood pressure and HF were highly variable without significant changes from NREM to REM sleep.


Cardiac parasympathetic activity (HF) does not vary greatly between sleep stages. Cardiac sympathetic activity (PEP) decreases linearly during sleep. rRR and LF/HF can track sympathovagal changes during sleep, but cannot differentiate between changes in cardiac parasympathetic and sympathetic activity. The relative advantages and disadvantages of the different measures are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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