The regularity of electroencephalogram signals was compared between middle-aged (47.2 +/- 2.0 years) and elderly (78.4 +/- 3.8 years) female subjects in wake, nonrapid eye movement stages 2 and 3 (S-2, S-3), and rapid eye movement sleep. Signals from C3A2 leads of healthy subjects, acquired from polysomnograms obtained from the Sleep Heart Health Study, were analyzed using both sample entropy (SaEn) and power spectral analysis (delta, theta, alpha, and beta frequency band powers). SaEn changed systematically and significantly (P < 0.001) with sleep state in both age groups, following the relationships wake > rapid eye movement > S-2 > S-3. SaEn was found to be negatively correlated with delta power and positively correlated with beta power. Small changes in SaEn seem to reflect changes in spectral content rather than changes in regularity of the signal. A better predictor of SaEn than the frequency band powers was the logarithm of the power ratio (alpha + beta)/(delta + theta). Thus, SaEn seems to reflect the balance between sleep-promoting and alertness-promoting mechanisms. SaEn of the elderly was larger than that of middle-aged subjects in S-2 (P = 0.029) and rapid eye movement (P = 0.001), suggesting that cortical state is shifted toward alertness in elderly subjects in these sleep states compared with the middle-aged subjects.
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