It has previously been documented that patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) have an abnormal blood pressure (pressor) response to acute hypoxia when awake. The relationship between hypoxic chemosensitivity and 24 h blood pressure in OSA is not known. Twenty-four hour ambulatory BP (ABP) was measured at 15 min intervals for 24 h using a non-invasive device (Oxford Medilog ABP or Spacelabs 90207 recorder) in 49 men (mean age 51 +/- 9 years), with OSA. The BP response to acute hypoxia was measured either directly (radial arterial line) or indirectly (Finapress) during wakefulness. The pressor response to hypoxia (expressed as the slope of the regression line of mean BP on % fall in arterial oxygen saturation) was compared with the results of the ABP recording, sleep study data and clinical variables. A pressor response to acute hypoxia was present in all patients (mean 1.4 +/- 1.1 mmHg/% delta SaO2, range 0.1-4.5). There was a relationship between the magnitude of the pressor response to hypoxia, severity of sleep apnoea (RDI and minimum SaO2) and central obesity (waist measurement). In contrast, there was no relationship between BP response to hypoxia during wakefulness and 24-h BP. However, increasing obesity and severity of OSA were associated with loss of the normal fall in BP at night. We conclude that enhanced chemosensitivity is common in OSA but there is no demonstrable link between chemosensitivity and mean daytime or night-time ABP.