Nocturnal periodic breathing at altitudes of 6,300 and 8,050 m

J. B. West, R. M. Peters, G. Aksnes, K. H. Maret, J. S. Milledge, R. B. Schoene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

69 Scopus citations


Nocturnal periodic breathing was studied in eight well-acclimatized subjects living at an altitude of 6,300 m [barometric pressure (PB) 350-352 Torr] for 3-5 wk and in four subjects during one night at 8,050 m altitude (PB 281-285 Torr). The measurements at 6,300 m included tidal volume by inductance plethysmography, arterial O2 saturation by ear oximetry (calibrated by arterial blood samples), electrocardiogram (ECG), and electrooculogram. At 8,050 m, periodic breathing was inferred from the cyclical variation in heart rate obtained from a night-long ECG record. All subjects at 6,300 m altitude showed well-marked periodic breathing with apneic periods. Cycle length averaged 20.5 s with 7.9 s apnea. Minimal arterial O2 saturation averaged 63.4% corresponding to a PO2 of ~33 Torr, i.e., ~6 Torr lower than the normal value at rest during daytime. This was probably the most severe hypoxemia of the 24-h period. At 8,050 m altitude, the cycle length averaged 15.4 s, much longer than predicted by a theoretical model. Cyclical variations in heart rate caused by periodic breathing occurred in all subjects, but abnormal cardiac rhythms such as ventricular premature contractions were uncommon. The severe arterial hypoxemia caused by periodic breathing may be an important determinant of tolerance to these great altitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)280-287
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 12 1986

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Nocturnal periodic breathing at altitudes of 6,300 and 8,050 m'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    West, J. B., Peters, R. M., Aksnes, G., Maret, K. H., Milledge, J. S., & Schoene, R. B. (1986). Nocturnal periodic breathing at altitudes of 6,300 and 8,050 m. Journal of Applied Physiology, 61(1), 280-287.