Study objectives: The depressive effects of hypoxia on the central nervous system are well known. The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of mild overnight hypoxia on the ability of healthy individuals to arouse from non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep to auditory tones.
Design: Randomized cross-over.
Setting: Participants slept in a sound-insulated room with the physiologic recordings and experimental interventions controlled from a separate room.
Participants: Eleven healthy men aged 18 to 24 years.
Interventions: On separate nights, participants were exposed to mild overnight hypoxia (SaO2 approximately 90%) or medical air in single-blind fashion. During established sleep, subjects were administered 1 of 10 auditory tones (500 Hz, 54-90 dB, 5 seconds duration) via earphones, or a sham tone (recording period with no tone).
Measurements and results: The probability and intensity of arousal responses in the 30 seconds following tones or shams were compared between gas conditions and between stage 2 and slow-wave sleep. Arousal probability and intensity increased with tone intensity and were significantly lower during slow-wave compared with stage 2 sleep but were not different between hypoxia and normoxia nights.
Conclusion: These data suggest that mild overnight hypoxia does not impair the neural mechanisms involved in arousal from sleep to auditory stimuli.