Influence of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system on nocturnal bronchial obstruction

Clin Sci (Lond). 1985 Sep;69(3):251-8. doi: 10.1042/cs0690251.


To determine whether an autonomic nervous system imbalance might underlie the nocturnal dyspnoea in patients with chronic airflow obstruction (CAO), we determined FEV1, sinus arrhythmia gap (SA gap), heart rate and urinary adrenaline and noradrenaline excretion every 4 h over 24 h. Measurements were performed in eight non-allergic patients with CAO and eight age- and sex-matched normal controls. The amplitude of the circadian changes in FEV1 in patients and controls was 27 +/- 2% and 7 +/- 1% respectively (P less than 0.001). Both an increased SA gap and a decreased heart rate are features of increased vagal activity. This vagal activity was significantly increased in patients, compared with normal controls (difference P less than 0.01), the difference being maximal at night. This increased activity might contribute to a bronchial obstruction in these patients. Urinary adrenaline excretion was significantly higher by day than by night in both patients and normal controls (P less than 0.01). The urinary levels of adrenaline in the patients were significantly decreased at all hours of observation as compared with levels in normal controls (P less than 0.05). Urinary noradrenaline levels were significantly lower in patients as compared with normal subjects (P less than 0.01), and lower by night than by day. Urinary histamine and Nt-methylhistamine excretion were in the normal range in each individual. Urinary levels, however, were significantly higher in patients at all hours of observation (P less than 0.05). No circadian rhythm was shown. Plasma cortisol levels showed a normal circadian variation, similar in patients and normal subjects.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Histamine / urine
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norepinephrine / urine
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology*


  • Histamine
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Norepinephrine