Heart rate variability during wakefulness as a marker of obstructive sleep apnea severity

Hua Qin, Brendan T. Keenan, Diego R. Mazzotti, Fernando Vaquerizo-Villar, Jan F. Kraemer, Niels Wessel, Sergio Tufik, Lia Bittencourt, Peter A. Cistulli, Philip de Chazal, Kate Sutherland, Bhajan Singh, Allan I. Pack, Ning Hung Chen, Ingo Fietze, Thorarinn Gislason, Steven Holfinger, Ulysses J. Magalang, Thomas Penzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


STUDY OBJECTIVES: Patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) exhibit heterogeneous heart rate variability (HRV) during wakefulness and sleep. We investigated the influence of OSA severity on HRV parameters during wakefulness in a large international clinical sample. METHODS: 1247 subjects (426 without OSA and 821 patients with OSA) were enrolled from the Sleep Apnea Global Interdisciplinary Consortium. HRV parameters were calculated during a 5-minute wakefulness period with spontaneous breathing prior to the sleep study, using time-domain, frequency-domain and nonlinear methods. Differences in HRV were evaluated among groups using analysis of covariance, controlling for relevant covariates. RESULTS: Patients with OSA showed significantly lower time-domain variations and less complexity of heartbeats compared to individuals without OSA. Those with severe OSA had remarkably reduced HRV compared to all other groups. Compared to non-OSA patients, those with severe OSA had lower HRV based on SDNN (adjusted mean: 37.4 vs. 46.2 ms; p < 0.0001), RMSSD (21.5 vs. 27.9 ms; p < 0.0001), ShanEn (1.83 vs. 2.01; p < 0.0001), and Forbword (36.7 vs. 33.0; p = 0.0001). While no differences were found in frequency-domain measures overall, among obese patients there was a shift to sympathetic dominance in severe OSA, with a higher LF/HF ratio compared to obese non-OSA patients (4.2 vs. 2.7; p = 0.009). CONCLUSIONS: Time-domain and nonlinear HRV measures during wakefulness are associated with OSA severity, with severe patients having remarkably reduced and less complex HRV. Frequency-domain measures show a shift to sympathetic dominance only in obese OSA patients. Thus, HRV during wakefulness could provide additional information about cardiovascular physiology in OSA patients. CLINICAL TRIAL INFORMATION: A Prospective Observational Cohort to Study the Genetics of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Associated Co-Morbidities (German Clinical Trials Register - DKRS, DRKS00003966) https://www.drks.de/drks_web/navigate.do?navigationId=trial.HTML&TRIAL_ID=DRKS00003966.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2021


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