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Heart rate phenotypes and clinical correlates in a large cohort of adults without sleep apnea

Authors Huang Z, Goparaju B, Chen H, Bianchi MT

Received 17 November 2017

Accepted for publication 6 February 2018

Published 19 April 2018 Volume 2018:10 Pages 111—125


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Steven A Shea

Zhaoyang Huang,1 Balaji Goparaju,2 He Chen,3 Matt T Bianchi2

1Department of Neurology, Xuanwu Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China; 2Department of Neurology, Division of Sleep Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA; 3State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning and IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

Background: Normal sleep is associated with typical physiological changes in both the central and autonomic nervous systems. In particular, nocturnal blood pressure dipping has emerged as a strong marker of normal sleep physiology, whereas the absence of dipping or reverse dipping has been associated with cardiovascular risk. However, nocturnal blood pressure is not measured commonly in clinical practice. Heart rate (HR) dipping in sleep may be a similar important marker and is measured routinely in at-home and in-laboratory sleep testing.
Methods: We performed a retrospective cross-sectional analysis of diagnostic polysomnography in a clinically heterogeneous cohort of n=1047 adults without sleep apnea.
Results: We found that almost half of the cohort showed an increased HR in stable nonrapid eye movement sleep (NREM) compared to wake, while only 13.5% showed a reduced NREM HR of at least 10% relative to wake. The strongest correlates of HR dipping were younger age and male sex, whereas the periodic limb movement index (PLMI), sleep quality, and Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) scores were not correlated with HR dipping. PLMI was however significantly correlated with metrics of impaired HR variability (HRV): increased low-frequency power and reduced high-frequency power. HRV metrics were unrelated to sleep quality or the ESS value. Following the work of Vgontzas et al, we also analyzed the sub-cohort with insomnia symptoms and short objective sleep duration. Interestingly, the sleep–wake stage-specific HR values depended upon insomnia symptoms more than sleep duration.
Conclusion: While our work demonstrates heterogeneity in cardiac metrics (HR and HRV), the population analysis suggests that pathological signatures of HR (nondipping and elevation) are common even in this cohort selected for the absence of sleep apnea. Future prospective work in clinical populations will further inform risk stratification and set the stage for testing interventions.

Keywords: heart rate variability, insomnia, sleepiness, sleep quality, periodic limb movements

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