Nocturnal oxygen enrichment of room air at 3800 meter altitude improves sleep architecture

High Alt Med Biol. 2001 Winter;2(4):525-33. doi: 10.1089/152702901753397090.


Sleep is known to be impaired at high altitude, and this may be a factor contributing to reduced work efficiency, general malaise, and the development of acute mountain sickness (AMS). Nocturnal room oxygen enrichment at 3800 m has been shown to reduce the time spent in periodic breathing and the number of apneas, to improve subjective quality of sleep, and to reduce the AMS score. The present study was designed to evaluate the effect of oxygen enrichment to 24% at 3800 m (lowering the equivalent altitude to 2800 m) on sleep architecture. Full polysomnography and actigraphy were performed on 12 subjects who ascended in 1 day to 3800 m and slept in a specially constructed room that allowed oxygen enrichment or ambient air conditions in a randomized, crossover, double-blind study. The results showed that subjects spent a significantly greater percentage of time in deep sleep (stages III and IV combined, or slow wave sleep) with oxygen enrichment versus ambient air (17.2 +/- 10.0% and 13.9 +/- 6.7%, respectively; p < 0.05 in paired analysis). No differences between treatments were seen with subjective assessments of sleep quality or with subject's assessment of the extent to which they suffered from AMS. This study provides further objective evidence of improved sleep as a result of oxygen enrichment at 3800 m and suggests that alleviating hypoxia may improve sleep quality.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air*
  • Altitude
  • Altitude Sickness / prevention & control*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electrocardiography
  • Environment, Controlled
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy*
  • Polysomnography
  • Respiration
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome