Cheyne-Stokes respiration (CSR) in severe stable congestive heart failure (CHF) may be associated with significant nocturnal arterial oxygen desaturation and sleep disruption. Previous investigations of inhaled CO2 in CSR have been uncontrolled and of short duration, sleep has not been monitored electroencephalographically, and most patients studied have had neurological disease with or without cardiac disease. The purpose of our study was to document the effects of inhaled CO2 on CSR in patients with severe stable CHF (left ventricular ejection fraction < 35% and NYHA class 3 or 4 dyspnea) in controlled all-night polysomnographic studies. Six patients were studied for 3 nights and days: adaptation, control and inhalation of CO2. These patients received a constant F1CO2 = 0.03 in air (with a 4-5 mm Hg increase in PaCO2) on night 3. This caused virtual abolition of CSR as reflected by CSR duration/total sleep time (62-2.2%; p = 0.0012) and CSR duration/nonrapid eye movement (NREM) sleep time (73-2.4%; p = 0.00064), and NREM apnea index was reduced from 33.5 to zero (p = 0.026). The apparatus used to accurately control F1CO2, however, was intrusive and some features of sleep structure such as sleep latency were adversely affected. We conclude that inhalation of CO2 with a constant F1CO2 = 0.03 virtually eradicates CSR in all-night polysomnographically monitored studies in patients with severe stable CHF. The clinical significance of these findings remains to be determined.