A Novel Electroencephalogram-derived Measure of Disrupted Delta Wave Activity during Sleep Predicts All-Cause Mortality Risk

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Rationale: Conventional markers of sleep disturbance, based on manual electroencephalography scoring, may not adequately capture important features of more fundamental electroencephalography-related sleep disturbance.

Objectives: This study aimed to determine if more comprehensive power-spectral measures of delta wave activity during sleep are stronger independent predictors of mortality than conventional sleep quality and disturbance metrics.

Methods: Power spectral analysis of the delta frequency band and spectral entropy-based markers to quantify disruption of electroencephalography delta power during sleep were performed to examine potential associations with mortality risk in the Sleep Heart Health Study cohort (N = 5,804). Adjusted Cox proportional hazard models were used to determine the association between disrupted delta wave activity at baseline and all-cause mortality over an approximately 11-year follow-up period.

Results: Disrupted delta electroencephalography power during sleep was associated with a 32% increased risk of all-cause mortality compared with no fragmentation (hazard ratio, 1.32 [95% confidence interval, 1.14–1.50]), after adjusting for total sleep time and other clinical and lifestyle-related covariates, including sleep apnea. The association was of similar magnitude to a reduction in total sleep time from 6.5 hours to 4.25 hours. Conventional measures of sleep quality, including wake after sleep onset and arousal index, were not predictive of all-cause mortality.

Conclusions: Delta wave activity disruption during sleep is strongly associated with all-cause mortality risk, independent of traditional potential confounders. Future investigation into the potential role of delta sleep disruption on other specific adverse health consequences such as cardiometabolic, mental health, and safety outcomes has considerable potential to provide unique neurophysiological insight.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-658
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • slow wave sleep
  • sleep deprivation
  • digital signal processing
  • Sleep Heart Health Study
  • sleep-disordered breathing


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