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INTRODUCTION: Sleep disturbance is common at high altitude and likely driven by an exaggerated peripheral chemoreceptor response which leads to apnoeic episodes and arousal. We hypothesised that this heightened response is in part mediated through angiotensin II receptors in the carotid body. To examine this link, we studied the effect of angiotensin II receptor blocker on sleep disturbance. METHODS: Twenty participants paired by age, gender and ACE phenotype ascended to the Whymper Hut (5000 m) on Chimborazo in the Ecuadorean Andes as part of a double-blinded randomised placebo-controlled study of physiological mechanisms. Subjects were randomised to either losartan 100 mg daily or placebo. The primary outcome of sleep efficiency was measured using wrist-mounted actigraphs. One pair was excluded from analysis after descending before the end of the study due to acute mountain sickness. RESULTS: There was a significantly different response to altitude between the two groups (F=3.274, p=0.029), as a decline in sleep efficiency in the placebo group (F=10.259, p<0.001) was not replicated in the angiotensin II receptor blocker group (F=0.459, p=0.713). CONCLUSION: The absence of any significant sleep disturbance in the intervention group suggests that peripheral chemoreceptor hypersensitivity is largely mediated by angiotensin II receptor activation. However, further research is needed to confirm our findings and to study the potential mechanisms of action.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Mil Health

Publication Date



actigraphy, altitude, angiotensin II receptor, losartan, periodic breathing, sleep