Occurrence of periodic sleep spindles within and across non-REM sleep episodes

Sari-Leena Himanen, Jussi Virkkala, Eero Huupponen, Jukka Niemi, Joel Hasan
Neuropsychobiology 2003, 48 (4): 209-16
Sleep spindles have been reported to occur both as single events and periodically in sequences. However, there is no systematic description about the occurrence of spindles in sequences in relation to time of night. The aim of the present study was to examine the temporal occurrence of periodic sleep spindles during the night. Sleep spindles of 19 healthy subjects were selected visually. A minimum of three consecutive spindles was required to form a spindle sequence. A 5-second upper time interval limit was applied as the longest duration between spindles belonging to a spindle sequence. The number of spindles and time occupied by spindle sequences increased from the first to the fourth non-REM (NREM) sleep episode. Within NREM sleep episodes, the number of spindles and spindle sequences dominated at the beginning. In the first two NREM sleep episodes with high slow-wave activity (SWA), there were few spindle sequences and they decreased with increasing SWA. In the third and fourth NREM sleep episode with less SWA, there were more spindle sequences and they were more evenly distributed. It is possible that in the first NREM sleep episodes, hyperpolarization of the thalamocortical cells deepens so rapidly that the NREM sleep level, where spindle sequences arise, is passed and spindle sequences are not formed. Spindle sequences could be regarded as markers of the evolution of the NREM sleep process and their lack or excess in relation to time of night and NREM sleep episode can hopefully be used to indicate changes in brain mechanisms behind NREM sleep.

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