Questionnaire data from patients presenting at three sleep disorders centers were used to develop and assess a screening tool for sleep apnea based on the reporting of the frequency of various symptoms of sleep apnea and other sleep disorders plus age, body mass index (BMI) and gender. Patients were not specifically referred for suspicion of sleep apnea. Separate factor analyses of survey responses from 658, 193 and 77 respondents from the first, second and third sites, respectively, each yielded four orthogonal factors, one of which accounted for all the questions concerned with the frequency of disordered breathing during sleep. The survey was shown to be reliable in a subset of patients from one of the sites (test-retest correlation = 0.92). Survey data were then compared to a clinical measure of sleep apnea (respiratory disturbance index) obtained from polysomnography. A multivariable apnea risk index including survey responses, age, gender and BMI was estimated using multiple logistic regression in a total sample of 427 respondents from two of the sites. Predictive ability was assessed using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. The area under the ROC curve was 0.79 (p < 0.0001). For BMI alone, it was 0.73, and for an index measuring the self-report of the frequency of apnea symptoms, it was 0.70. The multivariable apnea risk index has potential utility in clinical settings.