Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is an established treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS). While it is known that CPAP reverses the pathological breathing pattern and improves daytime sleepiness, there are no sufficient data on the long-term influence of CPAP on quality of life in patients with OSAS. Thirty-nine patients with polysomnographically verified OSAS (apnoea/hypopnoea index (AHI): (mean+/-SD) 46.8+/-21.8 events x h(-1)) were prospectively studied. All patients answered three quality of life measures (Complaint List, Nottingham Health Profile Part 1 (NHP), and Verbal Analogue-Scale "quality of life") prior to the initiation of CPAP therapy. After a mean of 9 months they were re-evaluated by polysomnography, and completed the questionnaires once again. As expected, CPAP was effective in treating the sleep-related breathing disorder. AHI decreased significantly from (mean+/-SD) 46.8+/-21.8 events x h(-1) to 3.3+/-6.3 events x h(-1), and minimum oxygen saturation increased from 77.1+/-9.3% to 89.9+/-3.4%, while body mass index did not change significantly (31.3+/-5.4 versus 30.8+/-4.8 kg x m(-2)). During long-term treatment with CPAP the Complaint List revealed a significant improvement of the extent of subjective impairment due to physical and general complaints (26.4+/-9.9 versus 20.4+/-11.1), and NHP a significant improvement of emotional reactions (19.8+/-21.7 versus 11.1+/-14.0) and energy (50.8+/-36.6 versus 32.1+/-36.7), but not of pain, physical mobility, sleep, social isolation, and quality of life as assessed by the It is concluded that long-term continuous positive airway pressure therapy is effective in improving not only pathological breathing patterns but also parameters that estimate quality of life in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.