The authors have investigated whether treatment of sleep apnoea with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) improves depressive symptoms, personal activities of daily living (ADL), cognitive functioning and delirium in patients that have suffered a stroke. Sixty-three patients consecutively admitted to a stroke rehabilitation unit 2-4 weeks after a stroke, with an apnoea/hypopnoea index > or =15, were randomized to either nCPAP treatment (n=33) or a control group (n=30). Four patients dropped out after randomization. Both groups were assessed at baseline and after 7 and 28 nights using the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), Barthel-ADL index, and the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scale. Compared to the control group, depressive symptoms (MADRS total score) improved in patients randomized to nCPAP treatment (p=0.004). No significant treatment effect was found with regard to delirium, MMSE or Barthel-ADL index. Delirium and low cognitive level (MMSE score) explained poor compliance with nCPAP. Depressive symptoms are reduced through nasal continuous positive airway pressure treatment in patients with severe stroke and sleep apnoea. Compliance with nasal continuous positive airway pressure treatment is a problem in stroke patients, especially when delirium and severe cognitive impairment occur.