Sleep disturbance at altitude

Jeremy S. Windsor, George W Rodway

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The aim is to describe the impact of altitude upon sleep, the physiology that underpins these changes and the therapeutic solutions that are currently in place. RECENT FINDINGS: On ascending to altitude, lowland residents commonly experience some degree of sleep disturbance. Occasionally, this can prove very uncomfortable and impact upon daytime activities. Historically, the underlying cause of sleep disturbance was thought to be due to the effect of periodic breathing. However, recent research has shown that the link between periodic breathing, lighter stages of sleep and arousals is far from convincing. Instead, it appears that hypoxia has a far wider effect upon sleep at altitude than was previously thought. A number of new approaches to the treatment of sleep disturbance at altitude have recently been identified. Whereas some treat the underlying hypoxia through pharmacological or technological means, others seek to address the symptoms of sleep disturbance more directly. SUMMARY: Many of the current approaches to treating sleep disturbance at altitude have been shown to be well tolerated and successful, although few comparisons have been made. Future research is likely to focus upon matching the safest and most successful approach to the individual and their environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)554-560
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • acetazolamide
  • altitude
  • oxygen
  • periodic breathing
  • sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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