Nicotine: a different approach to treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.
Reduced upper airway muscle activity may contribute to the occurrence of obstructive apneas during sleep. There is no uniformly successful treatment of these apneas, and it is possible that agents which increase upper airway muscle activity could reduce the occurrence of obstruction during sleep. Nicotine, a known stimulant of breathing, also increases the activity of muscles which dilate the upper airway proportionally more than it does ventilation. Hence, we evaluated the effect of nicotine on apneas during the first two hours of sleep in eight patients with sleep apnea syndrome. It was concluded that nicotine reduces apneas during the early hours of sleep, and this effect may be caused by its stimulating action on upper airway muscles.