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To evaluate blood pressure and humoral vasoconstrictor responses to recurrent episodes of obstructive sleep apnea and the effects of therapy by means of continuous positive airway pressure.We prospectively evaluated overnight changes in hemodynamics, oxygen saturation, the apnea–hypopnea index, circulating endothelin-1, norepinephrine and plasma renin activity in 22 patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea before and after successful therapy using continuous positive airway pressure therapy (three measurements). Measurements of endothelin-1 and blood pressure were also obtained on three occasions, at similar times, in 12 healthy control subjects without sleep disturbances.Mean arterial pressure and endothelin-1 concentrations increased significantly after 4 h of untreated obstructive sleep apnea, and decreased after 5 h of continuous positive airway pressure. Changes in endothelin-1 levels were correlated with changes in mean arterial pressure (r = 0.44, P < 0.02) and with changes in oxygen saturation (r = 0.37, P < 0.05). Norepinephrine levels and plasma renin activity did not change significantly in patients with obstructive sleep apnea, and were not correlated with changes in blood pressure or oxygen saturation. In controls, blood pressure measurements at similar times during the night showed changes directionally opposite to that seen in obstructive sleep apnea, while endothelin-1 levels remained unchanged.Sleep apnea elicits increases in blood pressure and endothelin-1, with reductions in both after treatment. Vasoconstrictor and mitogenic effects of endothelin-1 may be implicated in increased cardiovascular risk in patients with obstructive sleep apnea.