The effects of protriptyline on sleep stage distribution and gas exchange have been assessed in eight patients with nocturnal hypoventilation secondary to restrictive chest wall disease. At a dose of 10-20 mg taken when they retired the total sleeping time was unaltered but the proportion of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep fell from 22% to 12% (p less than 0.05). The total time spent at an arterial oxygen saturation of less than 80% decreased (p less than 0.01) and the magnitude of the fall correlated with the reduction in REM sleep (r = 0.67, p less than 0.05). There was also a reduction in the maximum carbon dioxide tension reached during the night (p less than 0.01). The arterial oxygen tension measured diurnally increased (p less than 0.05) from a median of 8.0 kPa (60 mm Hg) to 9.0 kPa (67.5 mm Hg), but the carbon dioxide tension and base excess were unchanged. Anticholinergic side effects were experienced by most patients but did not limit treatment.
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