During 1976-1988 we diagnosed sleep apnea syndrome (SAS) in 1,620 adult men and women monitored in the Technion sleep laboratories. Their age at the time of diagnosis ranged between 21 and 79 years. Fifty-seven patients (53 men and 4 women) had died by 1990, 53% due to respiratory-cardiovascular causes. The observed/expected (O/E) mortality rates, calculated for men only, revealed excess mortality of patients under 70 years old. Excess mortality was significant in the fourth and fifth decades (3.33, p < 0.002; 3.23, p < 0.0002, respectively). In patients older than 70 O/E was 0.33 (p < 0.0007). Hierarchical multivariate analysis with four fixed variables [age, body mass index (BMI), hypertension and apnea index] and four additional variables added manually one at a time (heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, apnea duration) was used to determine the predictors of death from all causes, cardiopulmonary causes and from myocardial infarction (MI). All four major variables were found to be significant predictors of mortality from all causes, in addition to lung disease and heart disease. Only age and BMI were significant predictors of cardiopulmonary deaths in addition to lung disease. Age, BMI and hypertension predicted MI deaths in addition to lung disease. These results were interpreted to suggest that SAS affects death indirectly, most probably by being a risk factor for hypertension.