The extensive investigation into complex interactions of breathing and sleep have produced answers to numerous important questions, but it is clear that many of the most important questions in this area remain unanswered. Our understanding of the mechanisms through which sleep alters breathing and how disordered breathing can, in turn, effect sleep is rudimentary. Although a large body of recent work has done much to elucidate the factors that act to maintain the patency of the upper airway during sleep, our understanding of such mechanisms and the relative importance of structure and function in this context remains primitive. A better understanding of these issues will be critical in elucidating the pathophysiology of respiratory disorders of sleep. Although some progress has been made in this area, new insights will be critically important to the design of novel, potentially more effective approaches to treatment. Therapeutic decisions are greatly hampered by major uncertainties regarding respiratory disorders of sleep and the clinical significance of symptoms, signs, and laboratory findings, and their relationship to morbidity and mortality. It seems clear that new information regarding the pathophysiology and natural history of these disorders will be important in the development of new, more effective strategies for therapeutic intervention, and this together with rigorous, systematic evaluation of new and future therapeutic approaches will be critical to clinical progress in this field.