Study Objectives: The objective assessment of insomnia has remained difficult. Multisensory devices collecting heart rate (HR) and motion are regarded as the future of ambulatory sleep monitoring. Unfortunately, reports on altered average HR or heart rate variability (HRV) during sleep in insomnia are equivocal. Here, we evaluated whether the objective quantification of insomnia improves by assessing state-related changes in cardiac measures. Methods: We recorded electrocardiography, posture, and actigraphy in 33 people without sleep complaints and 158 patients with mild to severe insomnia over 4 d in their home environment. At the microscale, we investigated whether HR changed with proximity to gross (body) and small (wrist) movements at nighttime. At the macroscale, we calculated day-night differences in HR and HRV measures. For both timescales, we tested whether outcome measures were related to insomnia diagnosis and severity. Results: At the microscale, an increase in HR was often detectable already 60 s prior to as well as following a nocturnal chest, but not wrist, movement. This increase was slightly steeper in insomnia and was associated with insomnia severity, but future EEG recordings are necessary to elucidate whether these changes occur prior to or simultaneously with PSG-indicators of wakefulness. At the macroscale, we found an attenuated cardiac response to sleep in insomnia: patients consistently showed smaller day-night differences in HR and HRV. Conclusions: Incorporating state-related changes in cardiac features in the ambulatory monitoring of sleep might provide a more sensitive biomarker of insomnia than the use of cardiac activity averages or actigraphy alone.


Mathematics and Statistics

Keywords and Phrases

actigraphy; arousal; heart rate; heart rate variability; insomnia

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1550-9109; 0161-8105

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





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Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Publication Date

01 May 2022

PubMed ID