Sleep-related changes in the human 'neuromuscular' ventilatory response to hypoxia

Respir Physiol. 1999 Sep 15;117(2-3):109-20. doi: 10.1016/s0034-5687(99)00064-x.


The ventilatory responses to hypercapnia and hypoxia are reduced during sleep compared to wakefulness. However, sleep-related increases in upper airways' resistance could reduce these ventilatory responses independently of any change in the neural output to the respiratory pump muscles. It is therefore possible that respiratory chemosensitivity, per se, is unchanged by sleep. To investigate this, four healthy male subjects were mechanically ventilated to abolish spontaneous respiratory muscle activity. The response to transient isocapnic hypoxia was quantified from the magnitude of the electromyographic activity induced in the diaphragm and from the associated reduction in peak inspiratory pressure; these indicies of respiratory motor output will not be affected by any sleep-related changes in upper airways' resistance. In all individuals, the responses to hypoxia were markedly attenuated during sleep compared to wakefulness. These observations, assessing the 'neuromuscular' ventilatory response, are consistent with a sleep-related reduction in respiratory chemosensitivity that is independent of any changes that may be due to increases in upper airways' resistance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Airway Resistance
  • Brain / physiology
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Chemoreceptor Cells
  • Diaphragm / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Hypercapnia / physiopathology
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Pulmonary Ventilation / physiology*
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology
  • Sleep, REM
  • Wakefulness


  • Carbon Dioxide