Electrocardiogram and intra-arterial blood pressure were recorded in 96 men (aged 35 to 45 years) by the Oxford method over a 30-hour period. The study involved 33 normotensive, 29 borderline hypertensive, and 34 mildly hypertensive individuals, as assessed by the cuff method. Five-minute periods during sleep and with subjects in supine, sitting, and standing positions were extracted from the recordings for frequency domain analysis. Power spectrum density estimates of systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate were calculated by an autoregressive method over the bandwidths of 0.02 to 0.075 (low-frequency), 0.075 to 0.15 (midfrequency), and 0.15 to 0.35 Hz (high-frequency), attributable to thermoregulatory, baroreceptor, and respiratory activity. No significant intergroup differences were observed at nighttime, but in different body positions the borderline hypertensive subjects frequently had either greater low-frequency variability or smaller midfrequency variability than the other groups. In this respect, the power spectra for systolic and diastolic blood pressures provided better statistical differentiation between the groups than those for heart rate. Furthermore, the borderline hypertensive subjects exhibited attenuated night-day changes in the low-frequency band for all time series. The results suggest that in borderline hypertension the baroreceptor oscillations are shifted to lower frequencies, presumably reflecting altered function of the sympathetic nervous system. In conclusion, spectral analysis of blood pressure variability for controlled test situations made it possible to detect differences in the cardiovascular regulatory systems between normotensive, borderline hypertensive, and mildly hypertensive individuals.