Respiratory volumes and timing have been measured in 19 healthy adults during wakefulness and sleep. Minute ventilation was significantly less (p less than 0.05) in all stages of sleep than when the subject was awake (7.66 +/- 0.34(SEM) 1/min), the level in rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep (6.46 +/- 0.29 1/min) being significantly lower than in non-REM sleep (7.18 +/- 0.39 1/min). The breathing pattern during all stages of sleep was significantly more rapid and shallow than during wakefulness, tidal volume in REM sleep being reduced to 73% of the level during wakefulness. Mean inspiratory flow rate (VT/Ti), an index of inspiratory drive, was significantly lower in REM sleep than during wakefulness or non-REM sleep. Thus ventilation falls during sleep, the greatest reduction occurring during REM sleep, when there is a parallel reduction in inspiratory drive. Similar changes in ventilation may contribute to the REM-associated hypoxaemia observed in normal subjects and in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
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