Autonomic Regulation across Phases of the Menstrual Cycle and Sleep Stages in Women with Premenstrual Syndrome and Healthy Controls



de Zambotti, M., Nicholas, C. L., Colrain, I. M., Trinder, J. A., & Baker, F. C. (2013). Autonomic regulation across phases of the menstrual cycle and sleep stages in women with premenstrual syndrome and healthy controls. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(11), 2618-2627.


To investigate the influence of menstrual cycle phase and the presence of severe premenstrual symptoms on cardiac autonomic control during sleep, we performed heart rate variability (HRV) analysis during stable non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and REM sleep in 12 women with severe premenstrual syndrome and 14 controls in the mid-follicular, mid-luteal, and late-luteal phases of the menstrual cycle. Heart rate was higher, along with lower high frequency (HF) power, reflecting reduced vagal activity, and a higher ratio of low frequency (LF) to high frequency power, reflecting a shift to sympathetic dominance, in REM sleep compared with NREM sleep in both groups of women. Both groups of women had higher heart rate during NREM and REM sleep in the luteal phase recordings compared with the mid-follicular phase. HF power in REM sleep was lowest in the mid-luteal phase, when progesterone was highest, in both groups of women. The mid-luteal phase reduction in HF power was also evident in NREM sleep in control women but not in women with PMS, suggesting some impact of premenstrual syndrome on autonomic responses to the hormone environment of the mid-luteal phase. In addition, mid-luteal phase progesterone levels correlated with HF power and LF/HF ratio in control women in NREM sleep and with the LF/HF ratio during REM sleep in both groups of women. Our findings suggest the involvement of female reproductive steroids in cardiac autonomic control during sleep in women with and without premenstrual syndrome.

Keywords: heart rate variability, menstrual cycle, premenstrual syndrome, REM sleep

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