Short-term complexity of cardiac autonomic control during sleep: REM as a potential risk factor for cardiovascular system in aging

Antoine U. Viola, Eleonora Tobaldini, Sarah L. Chellappa, Karina Rabello Casali, Alberto Porta, Nicola Montano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Sleep is a complex phenomenon characterized by important modifications throughout life and by changes of autonomic cardiovascular control. Aging is associated with a reduction of the overall heart rate variability (HRV) and a decrease of complexity of autonomic cardiac regulation. The aim of our study was to evaluate the HRV complexity using two entropy-derived measures, Shannon Entropy (SE) and Corrected Conditional Entropy (CCE), during sleep in young and older subjects. Methods: A polysomnographic study was performed in 12 healthy young (21.1±0.8 years) and 12 healthy older subjects (64.9±1.9 years). After the sleep scoring, heart period time series were divided into wake (W), Stage 1-2 (S1-2), Stage 3-4 (S3-4) and REM. Two complexity indexes were assessed: SE(3) measuring the complexity of a distribution of 3-beat patterns (SE(3) is higher when all the patterns are identically distributed and it is lower when some patterns are more likely) and CCEmin measuring the minimum amount of information that cannot be derived from the knowledge of previous values. Results: Across the different sleep stages, young subjects had similar RR interval, total variance, SE(3) and CCEmin. In the older group, SE(3) and CCEmin were reduced during REM sleep compared to S1-2, S3-4 and W. Compared to young subjects, during W and sleep the older subjects showed a lower RR interval and reduced total variance as well as a significant reduction of SE(3) and CCEmin. This decrease of entropy measures was more evident during REM sleep. Conclusion: Our study indicates that aging is characterized by a reduction of entropy indices of cardiovascular variability during wake/sleep cycle, more evident during REM sleep. We conclude that during aging REM sleep is associated with a simplification of cardiac control mechanisms that could lead to an impaired ability of the cardiovascular system to react to cardiovascular adverse events.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere19002
JournalPLoS One
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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