The aim of the study was to evaluate the prevalence, the covariates and determinants of respiratory pauses during sleep in a sample of French middle-aged males. Study subjects were 850 active males, aged 22-66 years; 88.4% of them answered the question on breathing pauses during sleep from a structured, validated sleep questionnaire. Forty-one (=5.4%) subjects reported breathing pauses at least once a week; these "positive responders" were older, heavier and had larger neck- and waist girths as compared to subjects with negative answers. Loud habitual snoring, various sleep disturbances, excessive daytime sleepiness, a doctor diagnosis of sleep apnoea, history of stroke and hypertension were significantly more frequent among subjects with breathing pauses during sleep. The prevalence found in this survey was close to that reported from the UK (5.2%). However, by logistic regression, we identified novel determinants of breathing pauses i.e. habitual snoring, loud snoring, and excessive sleepiness, factors well known in clinical setting, but never previously reported in epidemiologic studies.