Wake High-Density Electroencephalographic Spatiospectral Signatures of Insomnia

Michele A Colombo, Jennifer R Ramautar, Yishul Wei, Germán Gomez-Herrero, Diederick Stoffers, Rick Wassing, Jeroen S Benjamins, Enzo Tagliazucchi, Ysbrand D van der Werf, Christian Cajochen, Eus J W Van Someren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


STUDY OBJECTIVES: Although daytime complaints are a defining characteristic of insomnia, most EEG studies evaluated sleep only. We used high-density electroencephalography to investigate wake resting state oscillations characteristic of insomnia disorder (ID) at a fine-grained spatiospectral resolution.

METHODS: A case-control assessment during eyes open (EO) and eyes closed (EC) was performed in a laboratory for human physiology. Participants (n = 94, 74 female, 21-70 y) were recruited through www.sleepregistry.nl: 51 with ID, according to DSM-5 and 43 matched controls. Exclusion criteria were any somatic, neurological or psychiatric condition. Group differences in the spectral power topographies across multiple frequencies (1.5 to 40 Hz) were evaluated using permutation-based inference with Threshold-Free Cluster-Enhancement, to correct for multiple comparisons.

RESULTS: As compared to controls, participants with ID showed less power in a narrow upper alpha band (11-12.7 Hz, peak: 11.7 Hz) over bilateral frontal and left temporal regions during EO, and more power in a broad beta frequency range (16.3-40 Hz, peak: 19 Hz) globally during EC. Source estimates suggested global rather than cortically localized group differences.

CONCLUSIONS: The widespread high power in a broad beta band reported previously during sleep in insomnia is present as well during eyes closed wakefulness, suggestive of a round-the-clock hyperarousal. Low power in the upper alpha band during eyes open is consistent with low cortical inhibition and attentional filtering. The fine-grained HD-EEG findings suggest that, while more feasible than PSG, wake EEG of short duration with a few well-chosen electrodes and frequency bands, can provide valuable features of insomnia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1015-1027
Number of pages13
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • alpha oscillation
  • beta oscillation
  • high density EEG
  • hyperarousal
  • insomnia
  • power spectrum
  • resting-state
  • wakefulness

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