Intranasal oxytocin increases respiratory rate and reduces obstructive event duration and oxygen desaturation in obstructive sleep apnea patients: a randomized double blinded placebo controlled study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Sleep Medicine






Oxytocin; Sleep; Sleep apnea


© 2020 Elsevier B.V. Background: Activation of the oxytocin network has shown benefits in animal models of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) as well as other cardiorespiratory diseases. We sought to determine if nocturnal intranasal oxytocin administration could have beneficial effects in reducing the duration and/or frequency of obstructive events in obstructive sleep apnea subjects. Methods: Two sequential standard “in-lab” polysomnogram (PSG) sleep studies were performed in patients diagnosed with OSA that were randomly assigned to initially receive either placebo or oxytocin (40 i.u.) administered intranasally in this double blinded randomized placebo controlled study. Changes in cardiorespiratory events during sleep, including apnea and hypopnea durations and frequency, risk of event-associated bradycardias, arterial oxygen desaturation and respiratory rate were assessed in 2 h epochs following sleep onset. Oxytocin significantly decreased the duration of obstructive events, as well as the oxygen desaturations and incidence of bradycardia that were associated with these events. Notably, oxytocin increased respiratory rate during non-obstructive periods. There were no significant changes in sleep architecture and no adverse effects were reported. Conclusions: Oxytocin administration can benefit OSA subjects by reducing the duration and adverse consequences of obstructive events. Oxytocin could also be beneficial in situations involving respiratory depression as oxytocin increased respiratory rate. Additional studies are needed to further understand the mechanisms by which oxytocin promotes these changes in cardiorespiratory function. The long-term efficacy and optimal dose of intranasal oxytocin treatment should also be determined in OSA subjects. NCT03148899.

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