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Free Content Diurnal variations in the waking EEG: comparisons with sleep latencies and subjective alertness

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Daytime measures of sleep latency and subjective alertness do not correlate with one another, suggesting that they assess different aspects of alertness. In addition, their typical diurnal variations show very different time courses. Quantitative analysis of the waking electroencephalogram (EEG) has been proposed as an objective measure of alertness, but it is not clear how it compares with other measures. In this study, the waking EEG was measured in the daytime to determine the presence of diurnal variations in the activity of standard frequency bands and to compare these variations with the temporal patterns typical of sleep propensity and subjective alertness. Alertness was evaluated in four men and 12 women, aged 19–33 y. Assessments were conducted every 2 h, from 10.00 to 24.00, in the following order: a visual analogue scale of alertness, a waking EEG recording and a sleep latency test. The waking EEG was recorded with eyes open. For each recording session, 32–60 s of artefact-free signals were selected from the C3/A2 derivation, then subjected to amplitude spectral analysis. Four EEG frequency bands showed significant diurnal variations: delta, theta, sigma and beta1. None of these variations showed a significant correlation with the temporal patterns of sleep latencies or subjective alertness. At the individual level, however, theta band activity increased when subjective alertness decreased, suggesting that the theta band can be used to monitor variations in alertness in a given individual, even at the moderate levels of sleepiness experienced during the daytime.

Keywords: MSLT; alertness; quantitative EEG; subjective alertness; waking EEG

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Laboratoire de chronobiologie, Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal; Département de Psychiatrie et Centre de recherche en sciences neurologiques, Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada

Publication date: 2000-09-01

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