What do NFL and NBA athletes and the average Joe all have in common? The answer might surprise you. Sleep apnea is a chronic medical condition that can affect anyone, even professional athletes, and it’s becoming more common. You might not fit the typical patient profile, but don’t let that keep you from seeing your doctor if you suspect you have sleep apnea. Read on to learn more about sleep apnea and how effective CPAP treatment might just save your life.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a surprisingly common condition. By some estimates, up to 7% of men and 5% of women have sleep apnea, so you might already know someone who is affected. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder “in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.” In other words, sufferers stop breathing during their sleep without even knowing it, sometimes up to 30 times per hour. This prevents them from getting a restful night’s sleep and can lead to a host of even more serious medical conditions, including heart problems.

Who gets sleep apnea?

Many people think that sleep apnea is primarily caused by being lazy, old, and fat. While activity, age, and weight can contribute to the onset of sleep apnea, they are not the only factors at play.

Despite many common misconceptions, sleep apnea doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, or weight. The condition affects both men and women, but guys are slightly more likely to develop it. Even more concerning, an increasing number of people of all genders are being diagnosed with sleep apnea.

The truth about sleep apnea is that it can occur at any age, regardless of stature or physical activity. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that some of the fittest professional athletes in the world suffer from sleep apnea, and some athletes, like those in the NFL, are actually more likely to develop sleep apnea than the average Joe. “There are athletes everywhere who have sleep apnea,” W. Christopher Winter, M.D. is quoted saying in a Men’s Health article entitled Sleep Apnea Might Be Killing You. Athletes might not fit the stereotypical mold of a sleep apnea patient, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to getting it.

Athletes? Really?

Some of the biggest names in pro sports, in all the major leagues, including the NBA and the NFL, have sleep apnea. You might not have expected muscular athletes who receive such comprehensive medical care to have this condition, but like we said, sleep apnea doesn’t discriminate.

Case in point: Shaquille O’Neil, known to fans around the world as “Shaq.” Standing at 7′1″ and weighing around 320 pounds, Shaq is an imposing figure—both on and off the court. He played professional basketball for nearly 20 years and has many athletic achievements under his belt. He knew he was a snorer because he sometimes snored loudly enough to wake himself up. Then he began to stop breathing in his sleep without knowing it. As is often the case, his girlfriend told him that she heard him stop breathing at night. So, he went to see his doctor. After conducting a few tests, they determined he had moderate sleep apnea and prescribed continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. After starting treatment, he said he began to feel much better and was sleeping eight to nine hours a night. See Shaq’s story below:


What is sleep apnea? NFL star says sleep apnea diagnosis, “saved [his] career”

Professional football player Ryan Jensen couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. He was irritable, constantly exhausted, and couldn’t perform on the football field. After being cut from the Baltimore Ravens, his days in professional sports seemed numbered. His wife had noticed that he would stop breathing at night, so his father suggested he get tested for sleep apnea. He took an at-home test that confirmed he was getting less than two hours of sleep a night, despite being in bed for over eight hours. With such poor sleep quality, Ryan’s athletic performance suffered. After being prescribed CPAP and getting his sleep back, his career took a 180-degree turn for the better. He credits his diagnosis with saving his NFL career. See Ryan’s story below:


The importance of quality sleep

Sports scientists, as well as both professional and amateur athletes and trainers, increasingly agree that quality sleep is an essential component of athletic performance and recovery. Poor sleep affects your everyday performance, too, whether in the gym, at work, or at home. Studies have shown that well-rested test subjects consistently perform better than subjects who are tired. Getting enough sleep is essentially the best play anyone can make. Fortunately, getting back to quality sleep after a sleep apnea diagnosis is easier than you think.


Finding the right treatment

A sleep apnea diagnosis may seem like it’s out of left field. If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor will likely prescribe continuous positive airway pressure. CPAP is a highly effective treatment with few side effects, and according to The Sleep Foundation, most people experience immediate relief and are thrilled to get their energy levels back. However, some patients cite breathing mask and strap discomfort as the top reason why they discontinue treatment. Even a properly fitted breathing mask can leak air, which can irritate and dry out your eyes. Because masks need to fit snugly, patients with sensitive skin often report waking up with the three discomfort strikes: strap marks, redness, and irritation. Given what we know about sleep apnea and its consequences, discontinuing treatment is a bad idea. Thankfully there’s a solution: the Facembrace.


The Facembrace

The Facembrace is a revolutionary comfort device that targets the four most common types of patient discomfort: leaking air, dry eyes, redness, and strap marks. It is made from high-tech thermoformed fabric and acts as a soft and smooth second skin to protect your face. Facembrace users consistently report increased adherence and greatly improved comfort. To learn more, visit Facembrace.

Getting enough quality sleep is paramount for good health and doctors agree about the benefits of sleep. For sleep apnea suffers, these benefits can’t be overstated. Athletes will be pleased to know that getting sleep apnea treatment is a virtuous circle: better sleep quality improves physical performance, which in turn further improves sleep quality. If you think you might have sleep apnea, don’t wait. Talk to your doctor, find the right treatment, and get your life back. The ball is in your court now!