Eszopiclone and zolpidem do not affect the prevalence of the low arousal threshold phenotype

Patrick R. Smith, Karen L. Sheikh*, Camille Costan-Toth, Derek Forsthoefel, Edward Bridges, Teotimo F. Andrada, Aaron B. Holley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Study Objectives: We sought to determine whether non benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics (NBSH) reduce the occurrence of the low arousal threshold (LAT) phenotype. Methods: Consecutive patients with suspected obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) referred for polysomnography (PSG) had demographic and PSG data abstracted. LAT was estimated using PSG criteria. After adjusting for pretest probability (PTP) for OSA, we calculated the effect that premedication with NBSHs has on LAT prevalence. Results: Five hundred seventy-nine patients with a mean age and body mass index of 42.2 ± 10.1 y and 28.9 ± 4.5 kg/m2, respectively, had data available for analysis. Most patients (444, or 80.9%) had a LAT, and administering a NBSH (zolpidem or eszopiclone) on the same night as the PSG did not change LAT prevalence (NBSH: 339 (83.3%) versus no drug: 100 (80.6%); p = 0.50). Adjusting for PTP, neither administration of eszopiclone (odds ratio 0.80 (95% confidence interval: 0.33-2.0); 0.69) nor zolpidem (odds ratio 1.65 (95% confidence interval: 0.8-3.5); p = 0.19) reduced the odds that a patient had a LAT. NBSHs did not change the mean SpO2 nadir, percentage hypopneas, or apnea-hypopnea index. There was no association between zolpidem or eszopiclone dosing and SpO2 nadir (zolpidem: β =-0.69, p = 0.80; eszopiclone: β =-1.53, p = 0.68), percentage hypopneas (zolpidem: β = 2.2, p = 0.43; eszopiclone β =-6.2, p = 0.46), or apnea-hypopnea index (zolpidem: β = 3.1, p = 0.22; eszopiclone: β = 2.6, p = 0.39). Conclusions: The LAT is common in our population and NBSH premedication does not alter its occurrence. Further studies are needed to determine how the LAT can be optimally managed to improve OSA treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-119
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Arousal threshold
  • Non benzodiazepine sedative hypnotics
  • Sleep apnea


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