Skip to main content

The regulation of heart rate during sleep


One group of the experiments was carried out on cats using encéphale isolé preparations, a second group was performed on cats with chronically implanted electrodes. Cortical EEG, electromyogram, ocular movements and electrocardiogram were recorded simultaneously.

Different kinds of heart denervation have been performed in order to study separately the action of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The following results have been obtained:

The changes in heart rate associated with the different states of sleep and wakefulness are controled by both the sympathetic and parasympathetic section of the autonomic nervous system.

The tonic fall in heart rate during a shift from wakefulness to synchronized sleep is prepondantly caused by an increase in the vagal tonus, whereas the further decrease in heart rate during desynchronized sleep is mainly brought about by a tonically reduced sympathetic discharge.

The phasic increase in heart rate following an arousal is only due to a phasic inhibition of the parasympathetic cardioinhibitory center. The phasic changes in heart rate associated with the bursts of rapid eye movements occuring during desynchronized sleep are caused by changes in the sympathetic and vagal activity as well. A detailed analysis shows that the phasic acceleration is prepondantly due to an inhibition of the vagal activity, whereas the following bradycardia is brought about by a phasic inhibition of the sympathetic output and a simultaneous increase in the vagal discharge.

The results clearly demonstrate that the changes in heart rate related with the different states of sleep and wakefulness are not caused by quantitatively equal antagonistic changes in the activity of the two sections of the autonomic nervous system.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Baust, W., u. W. Rohrwasser: Fortlaufende Registrierung von pH und Motilität des Ma-gens im natürlichen Schlaf des Menschen. Pflügers Arch. ges. Physiol. 297, R 42 (1967).

    Google Scholar 

  • Baust, W., H. Weidinger and F. Kirchner: Sympathetic activity during natural sleep and arousal. Arch. ital. Biol. (in press).

  • Bonvallet, M., et A. Zbrozyna: Les commandes réticulaires du systéme autonome et en particulier de l'innervation sympathique et parasympathique de la pupille. Arch. ital. Biol. 101, 174–207 (1963).

    Google Scholar 

  • Gassel, M.M., B. Ghelarducci, P.L. Marchiafava and O. Pompeiano: Phasic changes in blood pressure and heart rate during the rapid eye movements episodes of desynchronized sleep in unrestrained cats. Arch. ital. Biol. 102, 530–544 (1964).

    Google Scholar 

  • Guazzi, M., and A. Zanchetti: Blood pressure and heart rate during natural sleep of the cat and their regulation by carotid sinus and aortic reflexes. Arch. ital. Biol. 103, 789–817 (1965).

    Google Scholar 

  • Iwamura, Y., Y. Uchino and Y. Kidokoro: Blood pressure and heart rate changes during para-sleep in vagotomized and atropinized cats. Brain Res. 7, 182–190 (1968).

    Google Scholar 

  • Jouvet, M., F. Michel et D. Mounier: Analyse électroencéphalographique comparée du sommeil physiologique chez le chat et chez l'homme. Rev. Neurol. 103, 189–205 (1960).

    Google Scholar 

  • —: Telencephalic and rhombencephalic sleep in the cat, pp. 188–206. In: The nature of sleep, pp. 416. Ed. by G.E.W. Wolstenholme and M. O'Connor. London: J. and A. Churchill 1961.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jovanovic, U.J.: Traum als Stress. Elektrographische Registrierungen. Communications of 6th International Congress of Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology. pp. 183–189. Vienna 1965.

  • Kleitman, N.: Sleep and Wakefulness, pp. 552. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press 1963.

    Google Scholar 

  • Samaan, A.: La fréquence cardiaque du chien en différentes conditions expérimentales d'activité et de repos. C. R. Soc. Biol. (Paris) 115, 1383–1388 (1934).

    Google Scholar 

  • Snyder, F., J.A. Hobson and F. Goldfrank: Blood pressure changes during human sleep. Science 142, 1313–1314 (1963).

    Google Scholar 

  • —, D.R. Morrison and F. Goldfrank: Changes in respiration, heart rate, and systolic blood pressure in human sleep. J. appl. Physiol. 19, 417–422 (1964).

    Google Scholar 

  • Sutherland, G.A.: The pulse rate and range in health and disease during childhood. Quart. J. Med. 22, 519–529 (1929).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

This work was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Baust, W., Bohnert, B. The regulation of heart rate during sleep. Exp Brain Res 7, 169–180 (1969).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Key Words