Negative pressure ventilation (NPV) is used for ventilatory support of patients with respiratory failure due to neuromuscular disorders and thoracic deformities, and to provide ventilatory muscle rest for patients with severe chronic airflow limitation. To determine whether NPV would result in episodes of upper airway obstruction during sleep, we studied five normal subjects on two consecutive nights with the first night serving as a control and NPV being administered on the second night. Ventilators were adjusted so as to reduce the peak phasic diaphragm electromyogram signal by at least 50 percent. All subjects demonstrated an increase in the total number of apneas + hypopneas per hour on NPV control nights. Although differences were not significant, there was a tendency to develop decreased sleep efficiency, sleep fragmentation and altered sleep architecture with NPV. We conclude that nocturnal NPV can induce sleep apneas and impair sleep quality in normal subjects.