Long-term CPAP treatment partially improves the link between cardiac vagal influence and delta sleep

Fabrice Jurysta, Chantal Kempenaers, Jean-Pol Lanquart, André Noseda, Philippe van de Borne, Paul Linkowski
BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2013, 13: 29

BACKGROUND: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment improves the risk of cardiovascular events in patients suffering from severe sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome (SAHS) but its effect on the link between delta power band that is related to deep sleep and the relative cardiac vagal component of heart rate variability, HF(nu) of HRV, is unknown. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that CPAP restores the link between cardiac autonomic activity and delta sleep across the night.

METHODS: Eight patients suffering from severe SAHS before and after 4 ± 3 years of nasal CPAP treatment were matched with fourteen healthy controls. Sleep EEG and ECG were analysed to obtain spectral sleep and HRV components. Coherence analysis was applied between HF(nu) and delta power bands across the first three sleep cycles.

RESULTS: Sleep characteristics and spectral HRV components were similar between untreated patients, treated patients and controls, with the exception of decreased Rapid Eye Movement duration in untreated patients. Coherence and gain values between HF(nu) and delta EEG variability were decreased in untreated patients while gain values normalized in treated patients. In patients before and during long-term CPAP treatment, phase shift and delay between modifications in HF(nu) and delta EEG variability did not differ from controls but were not different from zero. In healthy men, changes in cardiac vagal activity appeared 9 ± 7 minutes before modifications in delta sleep.

CONCLUSIONS: Long-term nasal CPAP restored, in severe SAHS, the information between cardiovascular and sleep brainstem structures by increasing gain, but did not improve its tightness or time shift.

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