Sleep apnea hypopnea syndrome (SAHS) is an entity that occurs frequently in the population and produces an elevated morbidity and mortality, especially at an apnea index greater than 20 events per hour. To our knowledge there are only a few studies available addressing the general health status of sleep apnea hypopnea patients. Such information may be useful for both clinical management and better understanding of the physiopathological mechanisms of the disease, particularly with the consideration that not infrequently the physiological disturbances found in such patients do not always agree with their own health perception. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to assess the general health status and the degree of daytime somnolence, as a major symptom in SAHS patients, and relate them to the number of respiratory events per hour. Measurements of general health status and the degree of daytime somnolence were assessed in 103 consecutive patients 50.4 +/- 12 years old [mean +/- standard deviation (SD)] with an apnea/hypopnea index (AHI) of 38 +/- 27 events per hour. Forty nonsnoring healthy subjects were used as the control group. During the afternoon preceding the full polysomnography, a medical history was taken; basic anthropometric data and the presence of other diseases were recorded. The Nottingham Health Profile (NHP) questionnaire and a questionnaire assessing the degree of daytime somnolence were administered to the patients. No significant differences were found in the general health status and the degree of daytime hypersomnolence when patients were divided into three groups according to the severity of the respiratory events during the night, but there were significant differences between SAHS patients and control subjects. It was concluded that in spite of the fact that SAHS patients showed a deterioration of general health status parameters in comparison with healthy subjects, these parameters do not correlate with the physiological disturbances of SAHS, expressed as the number of respiratory events per hour.