The ability to predict when a person is about to fall asleep is an important challenge in recent biomedical research and has various possible applications. Sleepiness and fatigue are known to increase pupillary fluctuations and the occurrence of eye blinks. In this study, we evaluated the use of the pupil diameter to forecast sleep episodes of short duration (>1s). We conducted multi-channel physiological and pupillometric recordings (diameter, gaze position) in 91 healthy volunteers at rest in supine position. Although they were instructed to keep their eyes open, short sleep episodes were detected in 20 participants (16 males, age: 26.2±5.6 years), 53 events in total. Before each sleep event, pupil size was extracted in a window of 30s (without additional sleep event). Mean pupil diameter and its standard deviation, Shannon entropy and wavelet entropy in the first half (15s) were compared to the second half of the window (15s). Linear and nonlinear measures demonstrated an elevation of pupil size variability before sleep onset. Most obviously, WE and SD increased significantly from 0.054±0.056 and 0.38±0.16 mm to 0.113±0.103 (T(102)=2.44, p<0.001) and 0.46±0.18 mm (T(104)=3.67, p<0.05) in the second half of each analysis window. We were able to identify 83% of the pre-sleep segments by linear discriminant analysis. Although our data was acquired in an experimental condition, it suggests that pupillary unrest might be a suitable predictor of events related to transient sleep or inattentiveness. In the future, we are going to involve the other recorded physiological signals into the analysis.
©2017 Andy Schumann et al., published by De Gruyter
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