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J Sleep Res. 2010 Sep;19(3):415-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2009.00798.x. Epub 2009 Dec 28.

Cardiorespiratory response to spontaneous cortical arousals during stage 2 and rapid eye movement sleep in healthy children.

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School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, Centre for Biomedical Engineering, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia.


Arousal from sleep is associated with transient and abrupt cardiorespiratory changes, and elevated arousals associated with sleep disorders may trigger adverse cardiovascular sequela. In this paper, we provide the first data in children on cardiorespiratory responses to cortical arousal. Heart rate and ventilatory responses to arousal from stage 2 and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep were investigated in 40 normal, healthy Caucasian children (age: 7.7 +/- 2.6 years; body mass index z-score: 0.30 +/- 0.8). All children underwent overnight polysomnography studies. Cortical arousals were scored according to standard criteria. Heart rate changes were assessed over 30 s, starting 15 s prior to cortical arousal onset. Breathing rates were quantified three breaths before and after arousal onset. Arousals from stage 2 as well as REM sleep resulted in an R-R interval shortening of about 15%, independent of age and gender. The R-R interval shortening initiated at least 3 s before the cortical arousal onset. The breathing interval immediately after cortical arousal onset was significantly shortened (P < 0.001). In conclusion, cortical arousals in children are associated with an increase in breathing rate and significant heart rate accelerations, which typically precede the cortical arousal onset.

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