Genioglossal muscle response to CO2 stimulation during NREM sleep

Sleep. 2006 Apr;29(4):470-7. doi: 10.1093/sleep/29.4.470.


Study objectives: The objective was to evaluate the responsiveness of upper airway muscles to hypercapnia with and without intrapharyngeal negative pressure during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and wakefulness.

Design: We assessed the genioglossal muscle response to CO2 off and on continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) (to attenuate negative pressure) during stable NREM sleep and wakefulness in the supine position.

Setting: Laboratory of the Sleep Medicine Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Patients or participants: Eleven normal healthy subjects.

Interventions: During wakefulness and NREM sleep, we measured genioglossal electromyography (EMG) on and off CPAP at the normal eupneic level and at levels 5 and 10 mm Hg above the awake eupneic level.

Measurements and results: We observed that CO2 could increase upper-airway muscle activity during NREM sleep and wakefulness in the supine position with and without intrapharyngeal negative pressure. The application of nasal CPAP significantly decreased genioglossal EMG at all 3 levels of PETCO2 during NREM sleep (13.0 +/- 4.9% vs. 4.6 +/- 1.6% of maximal EMG, 14.6 +/- 5.6% vs. 7.1 +/- 2.3% of maximal EMG, and 17.3 +/- 6.3% vs. 10.2 +/- 3.1% of maximal EMG, respectively). However, the absence of negative pressure in the upper airway did not significantly affect the slope of the pharyngeal airway dilator muscle response to hypercapnia during NREM sleep (0.72 +/- 0.30% vs. 0.79 +/- 0.27% of maximal EMG per mm Hg PCO2, respectively, off and on CPAP).

Conclusions: We conclude that both chemoreceptive and negative pressure reflex inputs to this upper airway dilator muscle are still active during stable NREM sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbon Dioxide / administration & dosage
  • Carbon Dioxide / pharmacology*
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure / methods
  • Electromyography
  • Facial Muscles / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypercapnia / diagnosis*
  • Hypercapnia / therapy
  • Male
  • Pharyngeal Muscles / drug effects*
  • Sleep Stages / drug effects*
  • Wakefulness / physiology


  • Carbon Dioxide