A number of phasic events influence sleep quality and sleep macrostructure. The detection of arousals and the analysis of cyclic alternating patterns (CAP) support the evaluation of sleep fragmentation and instability. Sixteen polygraphic overnight recordings were visually inspected for conventional Rechtscaffen and Kales scoring, while arousals were detected following the criteria of the American Sleep Disorders Association (ASDA). Three electroencephalograph (EEG) segments were associated to each event, corresponding to background activity, pre-arousal period and arousal. The study was supplemented by the analysis of time-frequency distribution of EEG within each subtype of phase A in the CAP. The arousals were characterized by the increase of alpha and beta power with regard to background. Within NREM sleep most of the arousals were preceded by a transient increase of delta power. The time-frequency evolution of the phase A of the CAP sequence showed a strong prevalence of delta activity during the whole A1, but high amplitude delta waves were found also in the first 2/3 s of A2 and A3, followed by desynchronization. Our results underline the strict relationship between the ASDA arousals, and the subtype A2 and A3 within the CAP: in both the association between a short sequence of transient slow waves and the successive increase of frequency and decrease of amplitude characterizes the arousal response.