Chronic psychophysiological insomnia: hyperarousal and/or inhibition deficits? An ERPs investigation

Célyne H Bastien, Geneviève St-Jean, Charles M Morin, Isabelle Turcotte, Julie Carrier
Sleep 2008, 31 (6): 887-98

STUDY OBJECTIVES: Chronic primary insomnia has been hypothesized to result from conditioned arousal or the inability to initiate normal sleep processes. The event-related potentials (ERPs) N1, P2, and N350 are useful indexes of arousal. The objective is to compare these ERPs in primary chronic psychophysiological insomniacs (INS) and good sleepers (GS) during multiple recordings.

PARTICIPANTS: Participants were 15 INS (mean age = 46 years, SD = 7.5) and 16 GS (mean age = 37 years, SD = 10.1).

METHODS AND PROCEDURE: Following a multistep clinical evaluation, INS and GS participants underwent 4 consecutive nights of PSG recordings (N1 to N4). ERPs were recorded on the 3rd and 4th nights in the sleep laboratory (N3 and N4). ERPs recordings were made during wake on both nights (in the evening and upon awakening), with the addition of sleep-onset recordings on N4. Auditory stimuli consisted of "standard" and "deviant" tones.

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS: Repeated measures ANOVAs were computed for each ERP for each recording for each type of stimulus.

RESULTS: The amplitude of P2 and N350 was greater for the deviant than for the standard stimulus in both groups. The amplitude of N1 was larger in INS than GS in the morning and the evening. While the amplitude of N350 was larger in GS than in INS at sleep onset, the amplitude of P2 was greater in INS than in GS at that time.

CONCLUSION: Signs of greater cortical arousal in psychophysiological insomnia individuals are observed, especially upon awakening in the morning. However, at sleep onset, difficulties from disengaging from wake processes and some inability at initiating normal sleep processes appear also present in individuals with insomnia compared to good sleepers.

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