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19.05.2017 | Original Article | Ausgabe 6/2017

Annals of Behavioral Medicine 6/2017

High-Frequency Heart Rate Variability Reactivity and Trait Worry Interact to Predict the Development of Sleep Disturbances in Response to a Naturalistic Stressor

Zeitschrift:
Annals of Behavioral Medicine > Ausgabe 6/2017
Autoren:
BA (Hons) Sasha MacNeil, PhD Sonya S. Deschênes, MSc Warren Caldwell, BA (Hons) Melanie Brouillard, MD, PhD Thien-Thanh Dang-Vu, PhD Jean-Philippe Gouin

Abstract

Background

High-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV) reactivity was proposed as a vulnerability factor for stress-induced sleep disturbances. Its effect may be amplified among individuals with high trait worry or sleep reactivity.

Purpose

This study evaluated whether HF-HRV reactivity to a worry induction, sleep reactivity, and trait worry predict increases in sleep disturbances in response to academic stress, a naturalistic stressor.

Method

A longitudinal study following 102 undergraduate students during an academic semester with well-defined periods of lower and higher academic stress was conducted. HF-HRV reactivity to a worry induction, trait worry using the Penn State Worry Questionnaire, and sleep reactivity using the Ford Insomnia Stress Reactivity Test were measured during the low stress period. Sleep disturbances using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index were assessed twice during the lower stress period and three times during the higher stress period.

Results

Greater reductions in HF-HRV in response to the worry induction predicted increases in sleep disturbances from the lower to the higher academic stress period. Trait worry moderated this association: individuals with both higher trait worry and greater HF-HRV reactivity to worry had larger increases in stress-related sleep disturbances over time, compared to participants with lower trait worry and HF-HRV reactivity. A similar, but marginally significant effect was found for sleep reactivity.

Conclusion

This study supports the role of HF-HRV reactivity as a vulnerability factor for stress-induced sleep disturbances. The combination of high trait worry and high HF-HRV reactivity to worry might identify a subgroup of individuals most vulnerable to stress-related sleep disturbances.

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