Cardiac autonomic control in the obstructive sleep apnea
Introduction: The sympathetic activation is considered to be the main mechanism involved in the development of cardiovascular diseases in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The heart rate variability (HRV) analysis represents a non-invasive tool allowing the study of the autonomic nervous system. The impairment of HRV parameters in OSA has been documented. However, only a few studies tackled the dynamics of the autonomic nervous system during sleep in patients having OSA.
Aims: To analyze the HRVover sleep stages and across sleep periods in order to clarify the impact of OSA on cardiac autonomic modulation. The second objective is to examine the nocturnal HRV of OSA patients to find out which HRV parameter is the best to reflect the symptoms severity.
Methods: The study was retrospective. We have included 30 patients undergoing overnight polysomnography. Subjects were categorized into two groups according to apneahypopnea index (AHI): mild-to-moderate OSAS group (AHI: 5-30) and severe OSAS group (AHI>30). The HRV measures for participants with low apneahypopnea indices were compared to those of patients with high rates of apneahypopnea across the sleep period and sleep stages.
Results: HRV measures during sleep stages for the group with low rates of apneahypopnea have indicated a parasympathetic activation during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. However, no significant difference has been observed in the high AHI group except for the mean of RR intervals (mean RR). The parasympathetic activity tended to increase across the night but without a statistical difference. After control of age and body mass index, the most significant correlation found was for the mean RR (p =0.0001, r = -0.248).
Conclusion: OSA affects sympathovagal modulation during sleep, and this impact has been correlated to the severity of the disease. The mean RR seemed to be a better index allowing the sympathovagal balance appreciation during the night in OSA.
Keywords: autonomic nervous system; sleep apnea; heart rate; sleep; circadian