The objectives of this study were to test the sensitivity of the short form 36 health survey questionnaire (SF 36) to sleep disruption in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and assess its use as an outcome measure for treatment with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Two hundred and twenty-three subjects under investigation for snoring and/or daytime somnolence completed the questionnaire at presentation and again after a six month period. Subjects with OSA requiring treatment scored lower on all dimensions of the SF 36 (P < 0.05) than normative scores for the general population. The largest differences were for vitality (24%) and social functioning (27.9%). After six months of treatment with CPAP there was an improvement in all scores and the score for vitality was no longer significantly different from that of the general population. The SF 36 is sensitive to the effects of sleep disruption in subjects with obstructive sleep apnoea, is a useful outcome measure for treatment with CPAP and its value in other sleep disorders should be assessed.