Complexity of wake electroencephalography correlates with slow wave activity after sleep onset

Fengzhen Hou*, Zhinan Yu, Chung Kang Peng, Albert Yang, Chunyong Wu, Yan Ma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Sleep electroencephalography (EEG) provides an opportunity to study sleep scientifically, whose chaotic, dynamic, complex, and dissipative nature implies that non-linear approaches could uncover some mechanism of sleep. Based on well-established complexity theories, one hypothesis in sleep medicine is that lower complexity of brain waves at pre-sleep state can facilitate sleep initiation and further improve sleep quality. However, this has never been studied with solid data. In this study, EEG collected from healthy subjects was used to investigate the association between pre-sleep EEG complexity and sleep quality. Multiscale entropy analysis (MSE) was applied to pre-sleep EEG signals recorded immediately after light-off (while subjects were awake) for measuring the complexities of brain dynamics by a proposed index, CI1−30. Slow wave activity (SWA) in sleep, which is commonly used as an indicator of sleep depth or sleep intensity, was quantified based on two methods, traditional Fast Fourier transform (FFT) and ensemble empirical mode decomposition (EEMD). The associations between wake EEG complexity, sleep latency, and SWA in sleep were evaluated. Our results demonstrated that lower complexity before sleep onset is associated with decreased sleep latency, indicating a potential facilitating role of reduced pre-sleep complexity in the wake-sleep transition. In addition, the proposed EEMD-based method revealed an association between wake complexity and quantified SWA in the beginning of sleep (90 min after sleep onset). Complexity metric could thus be considered as a potential indicator for sleep interventions, and further studies are encouraged to examine the application of EEG complexity before sleep onset in populations with difficulty in sleep initiation. Further studies may also examine the mechanisms of the causal relationships between pre-sleep brain complexity and SWA, or conduct comparisons between normal and pathological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number809
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberNOV
StatePublished - 13 Nov 2018


  • Brain activity
  • Complexity
  • EEG
  • Non-linear
  • Sleep medicine
  • Sleeps stages


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