Activation of pharyngeal dilator muscles, such as the genioglossus, during hypoxia must be sufficient to overcome the increased subatmospheric pressure generated by the diaphragm. This is particularly important during sleep, when upper airway resistance is greater. We measured ventilatory, genioglossal (EMGgg) and diaphragmatic (EMGdi) electromyogram responses to isocapnic hypoxia during wakefulness (W), slow-wave sleep (SWS), and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in seven chronically instrumented adult goats. We also compared the EMG responses to hypoxia to response to CO2 during W. delta EMGdi/delta SaO2 decreased progressively from W to SWS (p less than 0.05) to REM sleep (p less than 0.05 versus SWS), paralleling the corresponding ventilatory responses. EMGgg was activated only below an SaO2 threshold, similar during W (69.8 +/- 6.3%) and SWS (67.2 +/- 4.3%), beyond which there was a brisk linear increase. During REM sleep, arousal preceded activation of EMGgg in each animal, although SaO2 at arousal (61.3 +/- 4.4%) was less than the SaO2 threshold for EMGgg activation during W or SWS (p less than 0.05). Despite state-related differences in the individual muscle responses, simultaneous EMGgg and EMGdi during hypoxia or hypercapnia in W, and during hypoxia in SWS and REM sleep, were linked in a constant manner. This suggests common integration of central and peripheral chemoreceptor inputs. Furthermore, these relationships are unaffected by either SWS or REM sleep.