To evaluate the release of catecholamines and their relationship with systemic blood pressure (BP) in normotensive patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS), diurnal and nocturnal urinary norepinephrine (NE) and epinephrine (E) excretion in 12 normal subjects and in 10 OSAS patients were compared; in addition, nocturnal NE and E excretion were measured in the patients while receiving short-term CPAP. Blood pressure was continuously monitored in the patients during both nights of urine collection. In normal subjects, both NE and E excretion decreased from day to night. In the patients without CPAP, only NE excretion decreased at night, and BP increased from wakefulness to sleep; both NE and E excretion were higher in patients than in normal subjects. With CPAP, which prevented apneas, only E excretion decreased with respect to the previous night, while BP no longer increased during sleep. The extent of nocturnal E decrease with CPAP was not correlated to BP variations. These results suggest that in normotensive OSAS subjects, sympathetic nervous system activity, based on NE excretion, is continuously increased and is not affected by short-term CPAP treatment. Conversely, adrenal activity, based on E excretion, is also increased, but it tends to be normalized by short-term CPAP. No clear relationship could be found between sympatho-adrenal behavior and BP during sleep.