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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1998 Jan;84(1):190-9.

Effects of NREM sleep on dynamic within-breath changes in upper airway patency in humans.

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Department of Medicine, William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.


The purpose of our study was to compare inspiratory- and expiratory-related changes in retropalatal cross-sectional area (CSA) during wakefulness to those during non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep. We studied 18 subjects in whom the severity of sleep-disordered breathing varied. Relative changes in CSA were visualized by using fiber-optic endoscopy. For each breath analyzed (wakefulness n = 4-13; sleep n = 7-16), the CSA was measured at fixed points within inspiration and expiration (0, 25, 50, and 100% of the inspiratory and expiratory duration); these measurements were expressed as a percentage of the CSA that occurred at the start of inspiration. During wakefulness, there was a statistically significant increase in the retropalatal CSA (compared with the start of inspiration) only during early expiration (group mean: expiration, 0% = 112.6 +/- 3.2 (SE) %; 25% = 122.8 +/- 6.2%; 50% = 110.6 +/- 3.8%). In contrast, during sleep, significant changes in CSA occurred during both inspiration and expiration (group mean: inspiration, 25% = 75.3 +/- 6.0%; 50% = 66.7 +/- 7.7%; 75% = 64.6 +/- 8.1%; expiration, 0% = 126.8 +/- 11.8%; 25% = 125.3 +/- 6.9%). The expiratory-related increase in CSA was followed by narrowing such that at end expiration the caliber of the airway was returned to that occurring at the beginning of inspiration (group mean at end expiration = 98.6 +/- 3.1%). The largest changes in CSA occurred in the subjects with an increased body mass index (BMI). We conclude that, during NREM sleep, significant changes in CSA occur during both inspiration and expiration and that the magnitude of these changes is significantly influenced by BMI.

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