Four morbidly obese men who had been found to have significant sleep-disordered breathing and oxygen desaturation were restudied after an average weight loss of 108 kg (range 53-155 kg). In all subjects, weight loss was accompanied by a significant reduction in the number of episodes per hour of sleep-disordered breathing events. In three of the four subjects, there was improvment in the severity of desaturation accompanying abnormal breathing. The two subjects with daytime somnolence and hypercapnia prior to weight loss showed the most dramatic improvement in desaturation. This suggests that obesity is a cause, rather than an effect, of the sleep apnea syndrome.