Hypnotic use in obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is contraindicated due to safety concerns. Recent studies indicate that single-night hypnotic use worsens hypoxaemia in some and reduces OSA severity in others depending on differences in pathophysiology. However, longer clinical trial data are lacking. This study aimed to determine the effects of 1 month of zopiclone on OSA severity, sleepiness and alertness in patients with low–moderate respiratory arousal thresholds without major overnight hypoxaemia. 69 participants completed a physiology screening night with an epiglottic catheter to quantify arousal threshold. 30 eligible patients (apnoea–hypopnoea index (AHI) 22±11 events·h−1) then completed standard in-laboratory polysomnography (baseline) and returned for two additional overnight sleep studies (nights 1 and 30) after receiving either nightly zopiclone (7.5 mg) or placebo during a 1-month, double-blind, randomised, parallel trial (ANZCTR identifier ANZCTRN12613001106729). The change in AHI from baseline to night 30 was not different between zopiclone versus placebo groups (−5.9±10.2 versus −2.4±5.5 events·h−1; p=0.24). Similarly, hypoxaemia, next-day sleepiness and driving simulator performance were not different. 1 month of zopiclone does not worsen OSA severity, sleepiness or alertness in selected patients without major overnight hypoxaemia. As the first study to assess the effect of a hypnotic on OSA severity and sleepiness beyond single-night studies, these findings provide important safety data and insight into OSA pathophysiology.