J Behav Med. 2019 Feb 21.
Hyperarousal is a critical component of insomnia, particularly at bedtime when individuals are trying to fall asleep. The current study evaluated the effect of a novel, acute behavioral experimental manipulation (combined immersive audio-visual relaxation and biofeedback) in reducing bedtime physiological hyperarousal in women with insomnia symptoms. After a clinical/adaptation polysomnographic (PSG) night, sixteen women with insomnia symptoms had two random-order PSG nights: immersive audio-visual respiratory bio-feedback across the falling asleep period (manipulation night), and no pre-sleep arousal manipulation (control night). While using immersive audio-visual respiratory bio-feedback, overall heart rate variability was increased and heart rate (HR) was reduced (by ~ 5 bpm; p < 0.01), reflecting downregulation of autonomic pre-sleep arousal, relative to no-manipulation. HR continued to be lower during sleep, and participants had fewer awakenings and sleep stage transitions on the manipulation night relative to the control night (p < 0.05). The manipulation did not affect sleep onset latency or other PSG parameters. Overall, this novel behavioral approach targeting the falling asleep process emphasizes the importance of pre-sleep hyperarousal as a potential target for improving sleep and nocturnal autonomic function during sleep in insomnia.