ABSTRACT: Our aim was to evaluate cardiac changes evoked by spontaneous and sound-induced arousals from sleep. Cardiac responses to spontaneous and auditory-induced arousals were recorded during overnight sleep studies in 28 young healthy subjects (14 males, 14 females) during non-rapid eye movement sleep. Computerized analysis was applied to assess beat-to-beat changes in heart rate, atrio-ventricular conductance, and ventricular repolarization from 30 s before to 60 s after the auditory tone. During both types of arousals, the most consistent change was the increase in the heart rate (in 62% of spontaneous and in 89% of sound-induced arousals). This was accompanied by an increase or no change in PR interval and by a decrease or no change in QT interval. The magnitude of all cardiac changes was significantly higher for tone-induced vs. spontaneous arousals (mean +/- SD for heart rate: +9 +/- 8 vs. +13 +/- 9 beats per min; for PR prolongation: 14 +/- 16 vs. 24 +/- 22 ms; for QT shortening: -12 +/- 6 vs. -20 +/- 9 ms). The prevalence of transient tachycardia and PR prolongation was also significantly higher for tone-induced vs. spontaneous arousals (tachycardia: 85% vs. 57% of arousals, P < 0.001; PR prolongation: 51% vs. 25% of arousals, P < 0.001). All cardiac responses were short-lasting (10-15 s). We conclude that cardiac pacemaker region, conducting system, and ventricular myocardium may be under independent neural control. Prolongation of atrio-ventricular delay may serve to increase ventricular filling during arousal from sleep. Whether prolonged atrio-ventricular conductance associated with increased sympathetic outflow to the ventricular myocardium contributes to arrhythmogenesis during sudden arousal from sleep remains to be evaluated.
AJP Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology 03/2007; 292(3):R1320-7. · 3.34 Impact Factor