Hypoglycemia has been incriminated as a possible factor responsible for development of the hypoglycemia unawareness phenomenon in patients with type I diabetes. Many patients with this condition, however, do not have a history of recent hypoglycemia. Because asymptomatic nocturnal hypoglycemia commonly occurs in type I diabetes, we tested the hypothesis that such episodes might be capable of inducing this phenomenon. Accordingly, autonomic and neuroglycopenic symptoms, counterregulatory hormone responses, and cognitive function were assessed during standardized insulin-induced hypoglycemia in 10 normal volunteer subjects on two occasions-once after induction of asymptomatic nocturnal hypoglycemia and once after control studies in which saline rather than insulin was infused overnight. Compared with control experiments, asymptomatic nocturnal hypoglycemia increased the threshold (required greater hypoglycemia for initiation) and reduced the magnitude of autonomic and neuroglycopenic symptoms, counterregulatory hormone responses, and cognitive dysfunction during subsequent hypoglycemia (all, P < 0.05). These results indicate that asymptomatic hypoglycemia may induce hypoglycemia unawareness and, thus, may explain why not every patient with this condition has a history of prior hypoglycemia. Our results therefore support the concept that in type I diabetes this phenomenon may be largely attributable to antecedent hypoglycemia.