The aim of this trial was to evaluate the effectiveness of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) in patients with mild sleep apnea- hypopnea syndrome (SAHS). One hundred forty-two consecutive patients with mild SAHS (apnea-hypopnea index 10-30, without severe sleepiness) were randomly assigned to receive conservative treatment (CT)-sleep hygiene and weight loss-(65 patients) or CT plus CPAP (77 patients), and 125 patients (86% males, age: 54 +/- 9 yr, BMI: 29 +/- 4 kg/m(2), AHI: 20 +/- 6, ESS: 12 +/- 4) completed the follow-up. The following outcomes were assessed at inclusion and after 3 and 6 mo of treatment: sleepiness (Epworth scale, multiple sleep latency test [MSLT]), other symptoms related to SAHS, cognitive function, and perceived health status (Functional Outcomes of Sleep Questionnaire [FOSQ], Nottingham Health profile). The relief of SAHS-related clinical symptoms was significantly greater in the CPAP group than in the CT group; the Epworth scale and FOSQ also showed more improvement in the CPAP group but did not reach significance. There were no significant differences in the other tests performed probably because the baseline values were normal. CPAP compliance was 4.8 +/- 2.2 h and treatment continuation was accepted by 62% of the patients at the end of the study. These results suggest that CPAP can be considered in treating patients with mild SAHS on the basis of an improvement in symptoms.