You may or may not have heard of Sleep Apnea before.
Whether you have or you haven’t, if health is a concern for you in any capacity I suggest you give this article a read.
The Silent Killer
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a common disorder that occurs during your sleep that causes you to intermittently stop breathing in your sleep.
Breathing pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds, to a couple minutes.
Yes you read that right; with Sleep Apnea it isn’t completely unheard of to stop breathing for over a minute.
This can occur dozens of times per hour, making up several hundred “apneas” over the course of your sleep cycle each night.
What About Steroids? I Thought Those Were The Killers Of Bodybuilders?
Okay let’s set the record straight.
Steroids CAN be potentially unhealthy if you don’t use them properly.
However, the real danger comes from the side effects that steroids can produce and exacerbate if your health isn’t in check.
For example, if you are on heavy doses of gear and your diet also sucks ass, then you will bloat several times as much as you would if you weren’t on steroids and your diet sucked ass.
As a result, you will likely have an increased resting heart rate, increased blood viscosity, and high blood pressure.
These over the span of several years will likely lead to cardiovascular complications, however, steroids themselves don’t instantly just wreak havoc like poison in your body.
It is a long term snowball effect of neglecting your general health, coupled with steroids which exacerbate other poor lifestyle choices.
So How Does This All Relate To Sleep Apnea and Bodybuilding?
I mentioned cardiovascular issues being a snowball effect over several years already.
One thing that goes completely unconsidered by many individuals is the fact that weighing more than the average human weighs will have just as much of a strain on your heart as any heavy cycle of gear.
There is a reason you don’t see many 300 pound 70+ year olds walking around, or even 50+ year olds for that matter.
This is because when you are carrying more weight, that is more tissue your heart has to supply blood and oxygen to.
When your heart has to work harder to make all this extra body mass function, you are stressing out your cardiovascular system, and are severely diminishing your potential lifespan.
If you look through the course of history of bodybuilding, the guys that usually pass away the youngest are either guys that abused the hell out of drugs and neglected their health, or the mass monsters who walked around at 300 pounds for several consecutive years.
Not only that, but your heart has to work several times as hard to supply blood and oxygen to 300 pounds of muscle than it does to supply blood and oxygen to an average 300 pound overweight guy.
Both scenarios are unbelievably unhealthy, but another unconsidered fact in bodybuilding is that simply exceeding your genetic potential of lean muscle mass is going to start having a negative effect on your cardiovascular function, because your heart has to go into overdrive to supply oxygen and blood to this supraphysiological amount of lean muscle mass.
The more muscle mass, the harder your heart has to work.
Being Heavy And Sleep Apnea
So we’ve already established how being heavy can have a direct and immensely negative effect on your cardiovascular function, but we haven’t talked about how being heavy correlates with Sleep Apnea.
In adults, the most common cause of obstructive Sleep Apnea is excess weight and obesity.
Excess weight is directly associated with the soft tissue of the mouth and throat causing airway blockages during the sleep cycle, as if you are excessively heavy it is very likely you have a thicker than average neck.
Now you may be saying, “this doesn’t apply to me, I’m heavy but I’m ripped and jacked so this doesn’t apply to me!”
Even if you’re 220 pounds of solid muscle, your neck size and overall weight is substantially bigger and higher than the average healthy male that is Sleep Apnea free.
You fall into the same category of at-risk individuals even if you are ripped to shreds, if you are “overweight”.
As mentioned previously, being overweight (even if it’s comprised of mostly muscle) will lead to insane amounts of cardiovascular stress, and then compound that multiple times with the hell your heart endures every single night from Sleep Apnea, and you are a ticking time bomb waiting to have a heart attack or stroke.
That my friends, is the reason why bodybuilders are dying so young.
Weighing more than a healthy human should, drugs compounding the issues which are left unaddressed by most, and worst of all the Sleep Apnea making everything 100x worse.
My Experience With Sleep Apnea
I didn’t even know I had Sleep Apnea until I bulked up to 250 pounds for the first time.
I had just gotten into bodybuilding around 17 years old, and when I was 20 years old I did my most intense bulk phase of all time, pushing my weight all the way up to 250.
As my weight climbed, I noticed I was having an incredibly difficult time staying awake in my university classes, I would commonly doze off in the middle of the day no matter where I was, I would wake up gasping for air with my heart beating out of my chest, and there were even times I had a very hard time staying awake at the wheel while driving.
Needless to say, it was getting very severe and dangerous.
I recall once I was at the club with my friends and I actually fell asleep at our table.
No I wasn’t drinking, I was bone dry sober.
My Sleep Apnea was simply so bad that no matter when I went to sleep, I would apnea so frequently and so intensely that my body never actually got into REM sleep or a deep sleep of any capacity, so even if I slept for 8+ hours, it would only feel like maybe half an hour of rest.
I was a walking zombie.
The reason why it got so much worse was because as I got heavier, my neck got thicker, and my airway was getting blocked more and more while I slept.
Coupled with the fact that I was already breathing a lot harder from carrying all this excess weight on my physique, it made for a disastrous combination.
My parents started noticing that I was choking in my sleep, and started recording me at night time.
We were shocked and frightened to listen back to the tapes.
I would literally stop breathing for over a minute and then gasp desperately for air hundreds of times every single night.
I went to see a sleep specialist and he determined I have “Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea” after giving me an overnight sleep test.
His exact words to me at age 20 were “you would have had a major stroke and probably died before turning 30 if you didn’t seek treatment for this.”
Yes, it’s that serious guys.
Think about holding your breath for as long as you can until you’re about to pass out and how stressful that is on your body. Then imagine your body doing that in your sleep hundreds of times per night, every single night.
It will undoubtedly diminish your lifespan at a quick rate.
Why Is Sleep Apnea A “Silent Killer?”
The reason Sleep Apnea is so unheard of and I dub it “the silent killer” is because you may have no clue that you are suffering from it.
This is because if you sleep by yourself, you will have nobody there to notice you are choking or intermittently ceasing to breathe in your sleep.
And even if you sleep with someone beside you, they may sleep through your apneas, or just assume you’re a bad snorer and write it off as something normal.
I would estimate that 50% of bodybuilders and other overweight individuals probably have Sleep Apnea to some degree and don’t even know it. I wouldn't be surprised if it was an even higher percentage than that though, that is just my guess.
Mine only became noticeable to my family once I started gaining lots of weight, but I’ve always had it.
It simply took an extreme bodybuilding regimen that involved me gaining way too much weight for my symptoms to get exacerbated to the point that it was blatantly obvious I had this sleep disorder.
Common Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea To Look For:
- Waking up with a very sore or dry throat
- Loud snoring
- Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
- Sleepiness or lack of energy during the day
- Sleepiness while driving
- Morning headaches
- Restless sleep
- Forgetfulness, mood changes, and a decreased interest in sex
- Recurrent awakenings or insomnia
If you have any of these, I highly recommend you see a sleep specialist and get an overnight sleep test done just in case.
Left Untreated, Sleep Apnea Can Cause Serious, Potentially Life-Threatening Conditions Such As:
- Heart Attack
- High blood pressure
- Mood disorders (anxiety, depression)
- Sexual dysfunction
- Inability to lose weight
- Reduced enjoyment of life
- Motor vehicle accidents
Treatment For Sleep Apnea And Is There A Cure?
While some individuals with less intense cases of Sleep Apnea may be able to cure themselves by simply bringing their bodyweight down, or with surgeries that open their airway up more (deviated septum fixes, surgically pulling jaw forward to make more space in the airway, etc.), those aren’t guaranteed cures.
One thing that pisses me off is that there are several gimmicky products on the market that take advantage of the fear of losing one’s health to sell their products.
Don’t fall for BS marketers who want to prey on your fears to sell you shitty useless products.
There is only one thing I would EVER recommend to those with Sleep Apnea, and that is the CPAP machine.
CPAP Machine = The Best Current Treatment Of Sleep Apnea
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is a common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.
It includes a small machine that supplies a constant and steady air pressure, a hose, and a mask or nose piece.
Basically what this machine does is it keeps oxygen in your airway at all times so then you never stop breathing in your sleep.
The pressure will adjust itself while you are asleep as well if it recognizes that you need more oxygen, or if you don’t need as much as it is pushing out, and then re-calibrates itself to push the exact amount of oxygen you need into your airway.
I have been using a CPAP machine religiously now for 4 years and it has literally been a night and day difference in my quality of life.
Now a full 8 hours of sleep actually equates to 8 hours of real rest, and I can function like a human being again!
And also even more importantly, I don’t have to worry about my heart going to war every single night now and having my cardiovascular system undergo vicious levels of stress and damage each and every day.
Will A CPAP Machine Get Rid Of My Snoring?
Yes, using a CPAP machine will not only 100% protect you from Sleep Apnea, but it will also prevent you from snoring if you are a snorer.
If You Have Sleep Apnea, I STRONGLY URGE YOU To Address It ASAP And Get A CPAP Machine.
Go get a prescription from a sleep specialist, and see if your insurance will cover your CPAP machine.
If your insurance won’t cover it, or you don’t have insurance, save up your money and buy one without a prescription.
I’m telling you right now, if you have Sleep Apnea it isn’t even a question of whether it is a feasible cost in your life, you absolutely need to find the money and get this thing.
I would likely be dead in a couple years if I didn’t get one (or already dead), and I shake my head in disbelief when I hear of my buddies with Sleep Apnea who refuse to wear their mask because they don’t like having to wear a mask to bed at night.
I even have a charged up mini-generator for my CPAP machine if the power ever goes out and I need an energy source to plug my machine into.
The lifespan of CPAP machines are over 10 years if you treat them well and keep them well maintained, so it isn’t too much out of pocket when you consider how long 1 machine can last.
I’ve been using the same machine since I was 20 years old and got it prescribed to me and it still works good as new.
So Where Can You Get A CPAP Machine And What’s The Best Model Right Now? What Else Do I Need With My CPAP Machine?
If you are forced to go the route of paying for it out of pocket, you can find the best models for the cheapest prices online from CPAP re-sellers who buy them at wholesale, and then resell them for reasonable rates, as opposed to big corporations who will charge you literally twice as much for the same machine.
I find that Amazon actually has the most reasonable prices for CPAP machines and other necessary accessories.
Right now, this is the best CPAP machine available in my opinion:
This model is about 50% quieter than the previous model, and has a whole lot of other nifty features.
I don’t care a lot about those features to be honest, but this is bar none the best bang for your buck right now.
It auto-adjusts the pressure while you sleep, it will last a decade or longer if you store it well, and it runs like a dream (it doesn’t roar like a lawnmower while you’re sleeping either like some lower quality CPAP machines do).
You can get this CPAP model by clicking HERE
You will need these to filter the air you are breathing.
You should dispose of it after 30 days of use per filter. They cannot be washed and re-used like the pollen filters that you will also need with your CPAP machine.
A cool thing about the Respironics DreamStation Auto CPAP machine above is that the device has an automatic air filter reminder.
Every 30 days it will display a message reminding you to check your filters and replace them as directed.
You can get the filters you will need by clicking HERE
You will also need a couple of these filters. They attach to the ultra-fine filters in your CPAP machine.
To clean the reusable blue pollen filter, first detach the light-blue ultra-fine filter if applicable, and set aside or dispose of as needed.
Then take the reusable filter to the sink, turn it upside down, and run warm tap water through the white filter media to rinse away any debris.
Next, lightly shake the filter to remove as much water as possible. Allow the filter to air dry completely before reinstalling it.
If the re-usable blue pollen filter is torn, replace it.
You can get the necessary pollen filter by clicking HERE
This is the mask I recommend using if you are a mouth breather like myself.
I find that size medium fits the majority of individuals.
You can get this model of mask by clicking HERE
If you aren’t a mouth breather like me and would prefer a nasal only mask, then I recommend this mask.
You can get this model of mask by clicking HERE
How To Use Your CPAP Machine?
It is as simple as connecting the pieces, fitting the mask around your face, turning it on, and then going to sleep.
It will do all the work for you, and adjust the air pressure as needed to provide you with the optimal amount of oxygen you need to totally stop your Sleep Apnea, keep you healthy and safe, and prevent all snoring.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that this machine literally saved my life, and I highly suggest you invest in one if you have been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea.
If you suspect you have Sleep Apnea, or the symptoms I mentioned of Sleep Apnea are symptoms you currently experience, I urge you to go get a Sleep Apnea test done ASAP.
Stay healthy guys. 🙂