Mechanics of the rib cage and diaphragm during sleep

J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol. 1977 Oct;43(4):600-2. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1977.43.4.600.


The pattern of motion of the rib cage and abdomen/diaphragm was studied in three normal subjects during sleep. Sleep state was monitored by electroencephalograph and electrocculograph. Intercostal electromyographs (EMG's) were recorded from the second interspace parasternally. Abdominothoracic motion was monitored with magnetometers and these signals calibrated by isovolume lines either immediately before going to sleep, or if there was movement, on awakening. Respiration was recorded using a jerkin plethysmograph. In the awake subject in the supine position, the rib cage contributed 44% to the tidal volume and had essentially the same contribution in quiet sleep. However, in active or rapid eye movement sleep the rib cage contribution fell to 19% of the tidal volume. This was accompanied by a marked reduction in the intercostal EMG. With the subject in the upright position the rib cage appears to be passively driven by the diaphragm. However, the present data suggest that active contraction of the intercostal muscles is required for normal rib cage expansion in the supine position.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / physiology
  • Adult
  • Diaphragm / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement
  • Respiration*
  • Ribs / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology
  • Thorax / physiology
  • Tidal Volume