The obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome occurs more frequently and with higher apnea-hypopnea indices in men than in women. To investigate the gender differences we extended our respiratory analyses during sleep to cover not only periodic obstruction (apnea and hypopnea) but also nonperiodic partial upper airway obstruction during sleep and their associations with increasing age or body mass index (BMI). The clinical sleep recordings with the static-charge-sensitive bed (SCSB) and oximeter were reviewed in 233 age and BMI-matched men-women pairs. Periodic obstruction increased with increasing BMI only in men. Nonperiodic partial obstruction increased with moderate to morbid obesity in women and men after the age of 65 years. Our findings suggest that while partial upper airway obstruction increases with increasing age and BMI in both genders, men have a gender specific BMI dependent predisposition for periodic obstruction (obstructive sleep apnea). The apnea-hypopnea index is likely to underestimate the impact of sleep-disordered breathing, particularly in elderly patients.