Intermittent hypoxia (IH) during sleep, a hallmark of sleep apnea, is associated with neurobehavioral impairments, regional neurodegeneration and increased oxidative stress and inflammation in rodents. Platelet-activating factor (PAF) is an important mediator of both normal neural plasticity and brain injury. We report that mice deficient in the cell surface receptor for PAF (PAFR–/–), a bioactive mediator of oxidative stress and inflammation, are protected from the spatial reference learning deficits associated with IH. Furthermore, PAFR–/– exhibit attenuated elevations in inflammatory signaling (cyclo-oxygenase-2 and inducible nitric oxide synthase activities), degradation of the ubiquitin–proteasome pathway and apoptosis observed in wild-type littermates (PAFR+/+) exposed to IH. Collectively, these findings indicate that inflammatory signaling and neurobehavioral impairments induced by IH are mediated through PAF receptors.