Enhanced muscle sympathetic nerve activity during sleep apnea in the elderly

J Auton Nerv Syst. 1992 Mar;37(3):223-6. doi: 10.1016/0165-1838(92)90044-h.


To examine how muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) becomes modified during sleep apnea in the elderly, we analyzed polysomnographic recording simultaneously with microneurographically recorded MSNA. Subjects were three healthy elderly males aged 72, 75, and 76. MSNA was suppressed with deeper non-REM sleep stages in these elderly subjects. In all three subjects, sleep apnea for 10 s or longer was observed during sleep of 00:00-06:00. During sleep apnea, MSNA was enhanced concomitantly with a blood pressure fall and a reduction in saturation rate of oxyhemoglobin. With the termination of sleep apnea, MSNA was maximally enhanced with a transient elevation of blood pressure. We conclude that sleep apnea induces an enhancement of MSNA, which may be responsible for hypertensive episodes during sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiopathology*
  • Oxyhemoglobins / metabolism
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology*


  • Oxyhemoglobins