Journal of Applied Physiology

Changes in total pulmonary resistance and PCO2 between wakefulness and sleep in normal human subjects

M. J. Morrell, H. R. Harty, L. Adams, A. Guz


We investigated the possible role of an increase in total pulmonary resistance in the sleep-related hypoventilation that occurs in healthy subjects. Eight nonsnoring volunteers were studied during quiet wakefulness and stage IV sleep. Airflow was measured via a nasal mask with a low dead space, and breathing pattern, end-tidal PCO2 (PETCO2), and a continuous estimate of total pulmonary resistance were estimated. From wakefulness to sleep, mean inspiratory resistance increased from 5.5 +/- 2.4 (SD) to 8.1 +/- 4.3 cmH2O.l–1.s, PETCO2 increase from 38.7 +/- 3.0 to 40.7 +/- 3.5 Torr, and ventilation decreased from 7.12 +/- 1.15 to 6.47 +/- 1.68 l/min. In five of the eight subjects, low levels of continuous positive airway pressure were applied during stage IV sleep to reverse any increase in resistance. In these subjects, continuous positive airway pressure reduced mean inspiratory resistance from 9.3 +/- 4.3 +/- 3.0 cmH2O.l–1.s but had little effect on mean PETCO2 (from 39.8 +/- 4.0 to 39.6 +/- 4.0 Torr) and mean ventilation (from 6.79 +/- 1.93 to 6.91 +/- 1.80 l/min). These findings suggest that in nonsnoring subjects reductions in alveolar ventilation cannot be accounted for by an increase in airway resistance.