Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is characterized by recurrent apneas during sleep, resulting in repetitive hypoxemic episodes and a constant interruption of the normal sleep pattern. Vigilance impairment and neuropsychological deficits are among the main symptoms seen in this condition. One of the major questions in this field concerns the reciprocal interactions between nocturnal hypoxemia, sleep disruption, excessive daytime sleepiness and cognitive deficits. Results of this study suggest that vigilance impairment is attributable mostly to nocturnal hypoxemia. However, in cognitive deficits, hypoxemia seems to play a major role in executive and psychomotor tasks, whereas attention and memory functions appear to be related to vigilance impairment. After treatment, hypoxemia-related deficits and some degree of sleepiness persist. These results raise the possibility of an irreversible anoxic central nervous system (CNS) damage in severe OSAS.