Breathing during REM and non-REM sleep: Correlated versus uncorrelated behaviour

Jan W. Kantelhardt, Thomas Penzel, Sven Rostig, Heinrich F. Becker, Shlomo Havlin, Armin Bunde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Healthy sleep can be characterized by several stages: Deep sleep, light sleep, and REM sleep. Here we show that these sleep stages lead to different autonomic regulation of breathing. Using the detrended fluctuation analysis up to the fourth order we find that breath-to-breath intervals and breath volumes separated by several breaths are long-range correlated during the REM stages and during wake states. In contrast, in the non-REM stages (deep sleep and light sleep), long-range correlations are absent. This behaviour is very similar to the correlation behaviour of the heart rate during the night and may be related to the phase synchronization between heartbeat and breathing found recently. We speculate that the differences are caused by different cortically influenced control of the autonomic nervous system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-457
Number of pages11
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the German Science Foundation (DFG), and the Minerva Foundation for financial support. The healthy volunteers were recorded as part of a study on the regulation of breathing during sleep funded by an unrestricted grant from UCB pharma, Kerpen-Sindorf, Germany.


  • Autonomic regulation
  • Breathing
  • Detrended fluctuation analysis
  • Long-range correlations
  • Scaling analysis
  • Sleep stages


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