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Physiol Meas. 2008 Sep;29(9):1089-103. doi: 10.1088/0967-3334/29/9/007. Epub 2008 Aug 28.

Aircraft noise effects on sleep: a systematic comparison of EEG awakenings and automatically detected cardiac activations.

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German Aerospace Center (DLR), Institute of Aerospace Medicine, 51170 Cologne, Germany.


Polysomnography is the gold standard for investigating noise effects on sleep, but data collection and analysis are sumptuous and expensive. We recently developed an algorithm for the automatic identification of cardiac activations associated with cortical arousals, which uses heart rate information derived from a single electrocardiogram (ECG) channel. We hypothesized that cardiac activations can be used as estimates for EEG awakenings. Polysomnographic EEG awakenings and automatically detected cardiac activations were systematically compared using laboratory data of 112 subjects (47 male, mean+/-SD age 37.9+/-13 years), 985 nights and 23,855 aircraft noise events (ANEs). The probability of automatically detected cardiac activations increased monotonically with increasing maximum sound pressure levels of ANEs, exceeding the probability of EEG awakenings by up to 18.1%. If spontaneous reactions were taken into account, exposure-response curves were practically identical for EEG awakenings and cardiac activations. Automatically detected cardiac activations may be used as estimates for EEG awakenings. More investigations are needed to further validate the ECG algorithm in the field and to investigate inter-individual differences in its ability to predict EEG awakenings. This inexpensive, objective and non-invasive method facilitates large-scale field studies on the effects of traffic noise on sleep.

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