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Cyclic alternating pattern (CAP) in normal sleep: polysomnographic parameters in different age groups.

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Istituto di Neurologia, Università degli Studi, Parma, Italy.



The present study aimed at offering a standardized database for cyclic alternating pattern (CAP) parameters across representative ages of life.


CAP parameters were quantified in 40 healthy sleepers and polygraphically investigated in a partially sound-proof recording chamber under a standard laboratory setting. Four age groups were investigated (teenagers: 10-19 years; young adults: 20-39 years; middle-aged: 40-59 years; elderly: 60 years). Each group included 10 subjects (5 males and 5 females). Nocturnal recordings were accomplished after adaptation to the sleep laboratory that also served to rule out the presence of sleep-related disorders. The study indicated that CAP is a natural phenomenon of NREM sleep, with specific age-related characteristics across the life cycle.


CAP rate in NREM sleep, defined as the percentage ratio of total CAP time to total NREM sleep time, showed a U-shape profile with minimum in young adults (31.9%), maximum in the elderly group (55.3%), and intermediate values in teenagers (43.4%) and in middle-aged subjects (37.5%). The longest duration of CAP cycles was found among the older subjects (31 s). The highest amounts of subtypes A1 were identified in teenagers (n = 261), while the highest amounts of A2 and A3 subtypes occurred in the elderly group (n = 183). Across the ages, the level of arousal mostly fluctuated in stages 1 and 3, whereas stage 4 emerged as the most stable NREM stage. Overall, stage 2 better reflected the CAP values referred to as total NREM sleep.


The periodic arousal fluctuations reflected by CAP are a natural phenomenon of NREM sleep with specific age-related variations across the life cycle.

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