In patients with congestive heart failure, Cheyne-Stokes respiration is accompanied by oscillations in blood pressure and heart rate at a very low frequency. It is not known whether these cardiovascular oscillations are primarily related to oscillations in ventilation or oxyhemoglobin saturation. We hypothesized that abolition of the ventilatory oscillations of Cheyne-Stokes respiration by CO2 inhalation would eliminate accompanying oscillations in blood pressure and heart rate but that elimination of hypoxic dips by supplemental O2 would not. We studied 10 subjects with heart failure and Cheyne-Stokes respiration during sleep using frequency spectral analysis. During Cheyne-Stokes respiration, heart rate and blood pressure oscillated in association with respiratory oscillations at very low frequency. Inhalation of CO2 abolished Cheyne-Stokes respiration and associated oscillations in both blood pressure and heart rate. In contrast, inhalation of O2 sufficient to eliminate hypoxic dips had no significant effect on Cheyne-Stokes respiration, blood pressure (n = 6), or heart rate (n = 5). We conclude that ventilatory oscillations during Cheyne-Stokes respiration rather than oscillations in oxygenation per se powerfully induce heart rate and blood pressure oscillations. Cheyne-Stokes respiration is therefore one of the mechanisms that contributes to the very low-frequency oscillations in heart rate and blood pressure observed in patients with heart failure.