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Psychophysiology. 2016 Apr;53(4):473-81. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12595. Epub 2015 Dec 16.

Heart rate variability during daytime naps in healthy adults: Autonomic profile and short-term reliability.

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Department of General Psychology, University of Padova, Padova, Italy.
Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, Riverside, California, USA.


In healthy individuals, a reduction in cardiovascular output and a shift to parasympathetic/vagal dominant activity is observed across nocturnal sleep. This cardiac autonomic profile, often measured by heart rate variability (HRV), has been associated with significant benefits for the cardiovascular system. However, little is known about the autonomic profile during daytime sleep. Here, we investigated the autonomic profile and short-term reliability of HRV during daytime naps in 66 healthy young adults. Participants took an 80-120 min polysomnographically recorded nap at 1:30 pm. Beat-by-beat RR interval values (RR), high (HF) and low frequency (LF) power, total power (TP), HF normalized units (HF(nu)), and the LF/HF ratio were obtained for 5 min during presleep wakefulness and during nap sleep stages (N2, N3, REM). A subsample of 37 participants took two additional naps with 2 weeks between recordings. We observed lengthening of the RR, higher HF and HF(nu), and lower LF/HF during NREM, compared with REM and wake, and a marked reduction of LF and TP during N3. Intraclass correlation coefficients highlighted a short-term stability of RR and HF ranging across sleep stages between 0.52-0.76 and 0.52-0.80, respectively. Our results suggest that daytime napping in healthy young adults is associated with dynamic changes in the autonomic profile, similar to those seen during nocturnal sleep. Moreover, a reliable intraindividual measure of autonomic cardiac activity can be obtained by just a single daytime nap depending on specific parameters and recording purposes. Nap methodology may be a new and promising tool to explore sleep-dependent, autonomic fluctuations in healthy and at-risk populations.


Autonomic activity; Daytime nap; HRV; Intraclass correlations; REM sleep; Reliability

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