Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a common disorder in which repetitive apnoeas expose the cardiovascular system to cycles of hypoxia, exaggerated negative intrathoracic pressure, and arousals. These noxious stimuli can, in turn, depress myocardial contractility, activate the sympathetic nervous system, raise blood pressure, heart rate, and myocardial wall stress, depress parasympathetic activity, provoke oxidative stress and systemic inflammation, activate platelets, and impair vascular endothelial function. Epidemiological studies have shown significant independent associations between OSA and hypertension, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, heart failure, and stroke. In randomised trials, treating OSA with continuous positive airway pressure lowered blood pressure, attenuated signs of early atherosclerosis, and, in patients with heart failure, improved cardiac function. Current data therefore suggest that OSA increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, and that its treatment has the potential to diminish such risk. However, large-scale randomised trials are needed to determine, definitively, whether treating OSA improves cardiovascular outcomes.