The autonomic nervous system plays important physiologic roles in a variety of organ systems. Autonomic dysfunction has been shown to be predictive of increased mortality in patients with cardiovascular disease. Its importance in patients with chronic respiratory disorders has been described in recent years. Here, we summarize the prognostic value of autonomic dysfunction, as reflected by impaired heart rate recovery (HRR), in patients with chronic respiratory disorders, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, interstitial lung disease, and lung cancer. We suggest that HRR may be clinically useful in the preoperative physiologic evaluation, specifically in lung cancer patients being considered for surgery.