Excessive daytime sleepiness is the most common symptom in OSAS. Administering CPAP improves breathing during sleep. We evaluated the time course of the recovery of alertness following CPAP therapy in OSAS patients. Thirty-nine patients with OSAS were treated with CPAP and evaluated after one, 14, or 42 nights of treatment, 13 patients being randomly assigned to each group. All received a diagnostic polysomnogram and MSLT before treatment. The three groups had similar baseline values for nocturnal respiratory disturbance, oxygenation during sleep, fragmentation of sleep, and level of EDS. CPAP treatment was associated with a significant improvement in sleep-related respiration, oxygenation, and sleep fragmentation. The EDS showed significant improvement after one night, and further significant improvement after 14 nights, but no further significant improvement after 42 nights. The differential rate of improvement in nocturnal parameters compared with that of primary complaint of EDS suggests that OSAS patients experience a chronic functional sleep loss. As with sleep deprivation, recovery of alertness in OSAS requires several nights of normal sleep.