Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) comprises a diverse set of disorders marked by abnormal respiration during sleep. Clinicians should realize that SDB may present as acute cardiopulmonary failure in susceptible patients. In this review, we discuss three clinical phenotypes of acute cardiopulmonary failure from SDB: acute ventilatory failure, acute congestive heart failure, and sudden death. We review the pathophysiologic mechanisms and recommend general principles for management. Timely recognition of, and therapy for, SDB in the setting of acute cardiopulmonary failure may improve short- and long-term outcomes.