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Sleep. 2010 Jan;33(1):113-22.

Changes in cardiac variability after REM sleep deprivation in recurrent nightmares.

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Sleep Research Center, Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, Québec, Canada.



To assess whether dysfunctional autonomic regulation during REM sleep as indexed by heart rate variability (HRV) is a pathophysiological factor in frequent nightmares (NMs).


Monitoring with polysomnography (PSG) and electrocardiography (ECG) for 3 consecutive nights: Night 1 (N1), adaptation night; N2, administration of partial REM sleep deprivation; N3, recovery night. Differences between NM and control (CTL) groups assessed for ECG measures drawn from wakefulness, REM sleep, and Stage 2 sleep on both N1 and N3.


Hospital-based sleep laboratory.


Sixteen subjects with frequent NMs (> or = 1 NM/week; mean age = 26.1 +/- 8.7 years) but no other medical or psychiatric disorders and 11 healthy comparison subjects ( < 1 NM/month; mean age = 27.1+/- 5.6 years).


NM and CTL groups differed on 2 REM sleep measures only on N1; the NM group had longer REM latencies and REM/NREM cycle durations than did the CTL group. No differences were found on time domain and absolute frequency domain ECG measures for either N1 or N3. However, altered HRV for the NM group was suggested by significantly higher LFnu, lower HFnu, and higher LF/HF ratio than for the CTL group.


Results are consistent with a higher than normal sympathetic drive among NM subjects which is unmasked by high REM sleep propensity. Results also support a growing literature linking anxiety disorders of several types (panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder) to altered HR variability.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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