RationaleObstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has multiple pathophysiological causes. A low respiratory arousal threshold (ArTh) and a high loop gain (unstable ventilatory control) can contribute to recurrent respiratory events in patients with OSA. Prior studies have shown that donepezil, an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, might improve OSA, but the mechanism is unknown.
ObjectivesTo determine whether a single dose of donepezil lowers the apnea-hypopnea index by modulating the ArTh or loop gain.
MethodsIn this randomized, double-blind, crossover trial, 41 subjects with OSA underwent two polysomnograms with ArTh and loop gain evaluated, during which 10 mg of donepezil or placebo was administered.
Measurements and main resultsCompared with placebo, sleep efficiency (77.2 vs. 71.9%; P = 0.015) and total sleep time decreased with donepezil (372 vs. 351 min; P = 0.004). No differences were found in apnea-hypopnea index (51.8 vs. 50.0 events/h; P = 0.576) or nadir oxygen saturation as determined by pulse oximetry (80.3 vs. 81.1%; P = 0.241) between placebo and donepezil, respectively. ArTh was not significantly changed (-18.9 vs. -18.0 cm H2O; P = 0.394) with donepezil. As a whole group, loop gain (ventilatory response to a 1-cycle/min disturbance) did not change significantly (P = 0.089).
ConclusionsA single dose of donepezil did not appear to affect the overall severity of OSA in this patient group, and no consistent effects on ArTh or loop gain were observed. Donepezil may have minor effects on sleep architecture. Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT02264353).