Cardiac autonomic dynamics during sleep are lost in patients with TIA and stroke

Eleonora Tobaldini, Paola Proserpio, Valentina Oppo, Michela Figorilli, Elisa M. Fiorelli, Mauro Manconi, Elio C. Agostoni, Lino Nobili, Nicola Montano, Thomas Horvath, Claudio L. Bassetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ischaemic stroke is accompanied by important alterations of cardiac autonomic control, which have an impact on stroke outcome. In sleep, cardiac autonomic control oscillates with a predominant sympathetic modulation during REM sleep. We aimed to assess cardiac autonomic control in different sleep stages in patients with ischaemic stroke. Forty-five patients enrolled in the prospective, multicentre SAS-CARE study but without significant sleep-disordered breathing (apnea–hypopnea index < 15/hr) and without atrial fibrillation were included in this analysis. The mean age was 56 years, 68% were male, 76% had a stroke (n = 34, mean National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale [NIHSS] score of 5, 11 involving the insula) and 24% (n = 11) had a transitory ischaemic attack. Cardiac autonomic control was evaluated using three different tools (spectral, symbolic and entropy analysis) according to sleep stages on short segments of 250 beats in all patients. Polysomnographic studies were performed within 7 days and 3 months after the ischaemic event. No significant differences in cardiac autonomic control between sleep stages were observed in the acute phase and after 3 months. Predominant vagal modulation and decreased sympathetic modulation were observed across all sleep stages in ischaemic stroke involving the insula. Patients with ischaemic stroke and transitory ischaemic attack present a loss of cardiac autonomic dynamics during sleep in the first 3 months after the ischaemic event. This change could represent an adaptive phenomenon, protecting the cardiovascular system from the instabilities of autonomic control, or a risk factor for stroke, which precedes the ischaemic event.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12878
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • autonomic modulation
  • brain ischaemia
  • heart rate variability
  • insula

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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