Reversible blunting of arousal from sleep in response to intermittent hypoxia in the developing rat

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Arousal is an important survival mechanism when infants are confronted with hypoxia during sleep. Many sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) infants are exposed to repeated episodes of hypoxia before death and have impaired arousal mechanisms. We hypothesized that repeated exposures to hypoxia would cause a progressive blunting of arousal, and that a reversal of this process would occur if the hypoxia was terminated at the time of arousal. P5 (postnatal age of 5 days), P15, and P25 rat pups were exposed to either eight trials of hypoxia (3 min 5% O2 alternating with room air) (group A), or three hypoxia trials as in group A, followed by five trials in which hypoxia was terminated at arousal (group B). In both groups A and B, latency increased over the first four trials of hypoxia, but reversed in group B animals during trials 5-8. Progressive arousal blunting was more pronounced in the older pups. The effects of intermittent hypoxia on heart rate also depended on age. In the older pups, heart rate increased with each hypoxia exposure. In the P5 pups, however, heart rate decreased during hypoxia and did not return to baseline between exposures, resulting in a progressive fall of baseline values over successive hypoxia exposures. In the group B animals, heart rate changes during trials 1-4 also reversed during trials 5-8. We conclude that exposure to repeated episodes of hypoxia can cause progressive blunting of arousal, which is reversible by altering the exposure times to hypoxia and the period of recovery between hypoxia exposures. Copyright © 2010 the American Physiological Society.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Applied Physiology