Measurement of endogenous acetone and isoprene in exhaled breath during sleep

Physiol Meas. 2012 Mar;33(3):413-28. doi: 10.1088/0967-3334/33/3/413. Epub 2012 Feb 28.


This explorative study aims at characterizing the breath behavior of two prototypic volatile organic compounds, acetone and isoprene, during normal human sleep and to possibly relate changes in the respective concentration time courses to the underlying sleep architecture. For this purpose, six normal healthy volunteers (two females, four males, age 20-29 years) were monitored over two consecutive nights (the first one being an adaption night) by combining real-time proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry measurements from end-tidal exhalation segments with laboratory-based polysomnographic data. Breath acetone concentrations increased overnight in all measurements, with an average relative change by a factor of up to 4 (median 2.5). Nighttime concentration maxima were usually recorded 2-3 h before lights on. For breath isoprene, a nocturnal increase in baseline concentrations of about 74% was observed, with individual changes ranging from 36-110%. Isoprene profiles exhibited pronounced concentration peaks, which were highly specific for leg movements as scored by tibial electromyography. Furthermore, relative to a linear trend, baseline isoprene concentrations decreased during the transition from the NREM to the REM phase of a complete sleep cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetone / analysis
  • Acetone / metabolism*
  • Adult
  • Breath Tests*
  • Butadienes / analysis
  • Butadienes / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Hemiterpenes / analysis
  • Hemiterpenes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pentanes / analysis
  • Pentanes / metabolism*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Butadienes
  • Hemiterpenes
  • Pentanes
  • isoprene
  • Acetone