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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2001 Apr;90(4):1455-63.

Cardiac and respiratory activity at arousal from sleep under controlled ventilation conditions.

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Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia.


Arousal from sleep is associated with elevated cardiac and respiratory activity. It is unclear whether this occurs because of homeostatic mechanisms or a reflex activation response associated with arousal. Cardiorespiratory activity was measured during spontaneous arousals from sleep in subjects breathing passively on a ventilator. Under such conditions, homeostatic mechanisms are eliminated. Ventilation, end-tidal PCO2, mask pressure, diaphragmatic electromyograph, heart rate, and blood pressure were measured in four normal subjects under two conditions: assisted ventilation and a normal ventilation control condition. In the control condition, there was a normal, sleep-related fall in ventilation and rise in end-tidal PCO2. Subsequently, at an arousal, there was an increase in respiratory and cardiac activity. In the ventilator condition, a vigorous cardiorespiratory response to a spontaneous arousal from sleep remained. These results indicate that sleep-related respiratory stimuli are not necessary for the occurrence of elevated cardiorespiratory activity at an arousal from sleep and are consistent with the hypothesis that such activity is at least in part due to a reflex activation response.

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