We used a canine model of chronic obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to examine the effects of intermittent airway occlusion during sleep on left ventricular (LV) performance. Studies were performed in four dogs. The effects of acute airway occlusion on LV pressure and volume (on a background of chronic OSA) were determined with an impedance catheter and a high fidelity manometer. In conscious animals (n = 3), experiencing spontaneous episodes of sleep, acute airway occlusion caused significant increases in LV transmural systolic pressure that were associated with increased end-systolic volume and reduced stroke volume. To determine the effects of chronic OSA on baseline LV function, two-dimensional echocardiograms were performed in conscious animals (n = 4) during unobstructed breathing before and after a 1- to 3-mo period of OSA. During chronic OSA, there was a significant decrease in LV ejection fraction as a result of increases in end-systolic volume. We conclude that in chronic OSA acute airway occlusion during sleep is associated with increases in LV afterload and decreases in fractional shortening. Chronic OSA also leads to sustained decreases in LV systolic performance that could be caused by the development of systemic hypertension and/or transient increases in LV afterload during episodes of airway obstruction.