Upper airway (UA) dilator muscles are critical for the maintenance of airway patency. Injury or fatigue to this group of muscles, as observed in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and animal models of OSA, may leave the UA susceptible to collapse. Although the mechanisms underlying respiratory muscle dysfunction are not completely understood, there is strong evidence suggesting a link between increased production of reactive oxygen species and altered muscle function. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of H2O2 on rat sternohyoid muscle function in vitro. Sternohyoid contractile and endurance properties were examined at 35°C under control or hypoxic conditions. Studies were conducted in the presence of varying concentrations of H2O2 (0, 0.01, 0.1 and 1 mM). Muscle function was also examined in the presence of antioxidants [desferoxamine (DFX), catalase] and the reducing agent dithiothreitol (DTT). H2O2 decreased muscle endurance in a concentration-dependent manner. This was partially reversed by catalase, DFX and DTT. Our results suggest that oxidants may contribute to UA respiratory muscle dysfunction with implications for the control of UA patency in vivo.