Brett Favre Sleep Apnea: His Battle with the Condition

Last updated: January 28th, 2024

When you think of NFL legend Brett Favre, you might picture a fearless quarterback with an iron will. But did you know that he battled a hidden enemy off the field - Brett Favre sleep apnea?

In this article, we will explore Favre’s journey with this sleep disorder, as well as the importance of sleep apnea awareness in the NFL, other players who have faced this condition, and coping strategies for athletes.

So let’s dive into the inspiring stories of those who have conquered Brett Favre sleep apnea and emerged stronger than ever.

Key Takeaways

  • Brett Favre’s inspiring journey with sleep apnea shows how important it is to seek diagnosis & treatment.

  • NFL players must be aware of the health risks associated and other athletes have overcome their condition.

  • Celebrities like Randy Jackson, Amy Poehler, Shaquille O’Neal and others are advocating for awareness on this serious sleep disorder.

Brett Favre's Sleep Apnea Journey

Brett Favre wearing a CPAP mask while sleeping

Quarterback Brett Favre, former Vikings player, retired from professional football due to his obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) - a sleep disorder that occurs when the body obstructs the airways during sleep due to sagging muscles in the throat and mouth.

Following his sleep apnea testing, he received an OSA diagnosis and immediately sought treatment. He ultimately chose CPAP therapy for managing his condition.

Favre’s journey underscores that sleep apnea can affect even those at peak physical fitness. His resolve in pursuing treatment and implementing requisite lifestyle changes exhibits his resilience and inspires others battling this sleep disorder.

The Turning Point


During his NFL career, Brett Favre recognized his need for more sleep due to morning difficulties stemming from untreated sleep apnea.

Despite being an incredibly fit individual, he was diagnosed with OSA after undergoing sleep apnea testing. This turning point in his life led him to make the difficult decision to retire prematurely from professional football.

Identifying sleep apnea symptoms like excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, and restless nighttime sleep, Favre set out to resolve his sleep issues and enhance his overall health. His brave choice to seek assistance for his sleep problems eventually facilitated the identification and management of his sleep apnea.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A sleep study revealed that Brett Favre had multiple episodes of breathing cessation during the night, which led to the diagnosis of sleep apnea. To successfully manage his condition, Brett turned to CPAP therapy, a treatment that has proven to be effective in helping individuals with OSA achieve restful and uninterrupted sleep.

Favre’s journey underscores the significance of pursuing an accurate diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea. Through proactive actions to address his condition, he regained his health, exemplifying a powerful precedent for others grappling with sleep apnea.

The Importance of Sleep Apnea Awareness in the NFL


Sleep apnea affects around 1/3 of NFL players, impacting their performance on the field, even after the most minor hits. Over 50% of retired NFL linemen have some form of OSA (source).

Raising awareness about sleep apnea in the NFL is essential to ensure that players are informed about the potential health risks and how it can negatively impact their performance on the field, especially during the last play of a game.

Understanding sleep apnea’s risks and pursuing treatment allows NFL players to sidestep an array of health issues and enhance their on-field performance. This awareness is crucial not only for their professional success but also for their long-term well-being.

Health Risks

Sleep apnea, with its significant dangers, can result in a plethora of health problems, such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression, and potentially death. NFL players, with their intense physical demands, may experience sleep apnea, resulting in decreased performance, increased risk of injury, and even long-term health issues, even after minor hits on the field.

It’s vital for NFL players and athletes overall to recognize these risks and take initiatives to address any potential sleep issues. Prompt detection and treatment of sleep apnea can aid in averting these severe health complications, promising a healthier future for these athletes.

Performance Impact

Sleep apnea can negatively impact NFL players’ performance, resulting in exhaustion, diminished focus, and delayed reaction times. It can also potentially lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases.

NFL players such as Brett Favre, Ryan Jensen, and Reggie White have encountered the challenge of sleep apnea. By promoting awareness and urging players to pursue testing and treatment, the NFL can aid its athletes in surmounting sleep apnea’s challenges and in attaining optimal on-field performance.

Other NFL Players Battling Sleep Apnea

Image of NFL player wearing a CPAP mask while sleeping

Brett Favre is not alone in his battle with sleep apnea. Other NFL players, such as Ryan Jensen and Reggie White, have also bravely shared their sleep apnea diagnosis with the world. These athletes serve as powerful reminders of the importance of addressing sleep apnea and seeking proper treatment to ensure a healthy and successful career.

Through narrating their experiences, these players have not only escalated awareness about sleep apnea but have also instilled hope and inspiration for others confronting this sleep disorder. Their journeys show that with resolve and apt treatment, overcoming sleep apnea’s challenges and continuing to thrive in the rigorous world of professional sports is achievable.

Ryan Jensen

Ryan Jensen, an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2018 and has since taken an inspiring approach to managing his condition. He has been using a CPAP machine to help him stay on top of his condition and maintain his strength and performance on the field.

Jensen’s narrative exemplifies the potency of perseverance and tenacity when confronted with adversity. By tackling his sleep apnea and implementing the necessary steps for its management, Jensen has not only uplifted his own health and well-being but also stands as a role model for other athletes wrestling with sleep apnea.

Reggie White

Reggie White, an incredible defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers, was a trailblazer in raising awareness about sleep apnea. After being diagnosed in 1997, he courageously encouraged other athletes to get tested for the condition, emphasizing the importance of early detection and treatment, especially before their final play on the field.

Sadly, Reggie White passed away at the age of 43, with sleep apnea believed to have contributed to his untimely death. His tale offers a touching reminder of the potential aftermath of untreated sleep apnea and underscores the significance of escalating awareness and advocating for testing and treatment for this serious sleep disorder.

Coping Strategies and Tips for Athletes with Sleep Apnea


Athletes with sleep apnea can take proactive steps to improve their poor sleep quality and overall well-being, such as maintaining good sleep hygiene, optimizing overall health and recovery, and raising awareness of the condition.

In addition, there are various sleep apnea treatment options available, including CPAP machines and snoring mouthpieces, which can help manage the condition and ensure a better night’s sleep. Check out the best CPAP machines, if you suffer from sleep apnea.

By utilizing these strategies and pursuing suitable treatment, athletes can manage their sleep apnea more efficiently and sustain their excellence in their chosen field. The key is to remain proactive and committed to addressing the condition and making the necessary lifestyle changes to ensure optimal health and performance.

CPAP Machine Selection

Selecting the appropriate CPAP machine is pivotal for athletes with sleep apnea, as it can facilitate correct breathing and minimize the risk of any health complications associated with the condition.

Top CPAP machines for athletes include:

  • ResMed AirSense 10 Series

  • Breas Z2 Auto

  • Somnetics Transcend Micro

  • ResMed AirSense 11

  • 3B Medical Luna G3

All of these machines can help athletes reach their peak performance.

In choosing the perfect CPAP machine, considering aspects such as size, noise level, comfort, and portability is essential. By carefully evaluating their needs and preferences, athletes can find the perfect CPAP machine to help them manage their sleep apnea and maintain their performance on the field.

Snoring Mouthpiece For Mild To Moderate Sleep Apnea

A snoring mouthpiece can be a useful aid in diminishing snoring and enhancing sleep quality for athletes with mild to moderate sleep apnea. There are several types of snoring mouthpieces available, including custom-fitted mouthpieces, over-the-counter mouthpieces, and mandibular advancement devices.

Despite their numerous benefits, it’s crucial to acknowledge potential disadvantages of snoring mouthpieces. They generally cannot be used for severe sleep apnea, only mild to moderate sleep apnea.

By carefully weighing the pros and cons, athletes can determine whether a snoring mouthpiece is the right choice for their sleep apnea management.

Lifestyle Changes

Athletes suffering from sleep apnea can implement lifestyle modifications to assist in managing their condition and enhancing their overall health. Maintaining a healthy weight, abstaining from alcohol and sedatives, and establishing a consistent sleep schedule are just a few examples of proactive steps that can be taken.

Additionally, switching up sleep positions can help reduce the intensity of sleep apnea symptoms and enhance the quality of sleep. Embracing these lifestyle alterations can help athletes manage their sleep apnea more effectively and uphold their performance in the rigorous realm of professional sports.

Celebrities Advocating for Sleep Apnea Awareness

Image of Randy Jackson wearing a CPAP mask while sleeping

Numerous celebrities, like:

  • Randy Jackson

  • Amy Poehler

  • Shaquille O’Neal

  • Larry the Cable Guy

  • Rosie O’Donnell

have courageously disclosed their sleep apnea diagnosis and underscored the importance of pursuing testing and treatment. Their stories serve as powerful reminders that sleep apnea can affect anyone, regardless of their level of fitness or fame.

Leveraging their platforms to elevate awareness about sleep apnea, these celebrities significantly influence the lives of countless individuals who might be grappling with this sleep disorder. Their advocacy endeavors inspire others to seek assistance and take charge of their health by tackling their sleep apnea.

Randy Jackson

Randy Jackson, a former American Idol judge, has been forthright about his sleep apnea diagnosis and his type-2 diabetes experience. By sharing his story, he has emphasized the importance of getting tested and treated for sleep apnea.

Randy’s proactive stance in managing his sleep apnea entails using a CPAP machine, which has assisted him in enhancing his sleep quality and overall health. His story serves as an inspiration for others dealing with sleep apnea and demonstrates the power of taking control of one’s health and well-being.

Amy Poehler

Image of Amy Poehler wearing a CPAP mask while sleeping

Amy Poehler, a comedian and actress, has been frank about her struggle with sleep apnea, revealing her lifelong battle with loud snoring and sleep deprivation. After becoming a mother, she decided to visit a sleep center where doctors diagnosed her with sleep apnea and revealed that actually the only time she was waking was 20 to 30 times a night.

Currently, Amy Poehler uses a CPAP machine during her sleep, which helps manage her condition while also promoting the significance of testing and treatment for sleep apnea. Her story serves as an empowering example for those struggling with sleep apnea and highlights the importance of taking action to improve one’s sleep quality and overall health.


From NFL legends like Brett Favre to inspiring celebrities like Randy Jackson and Amy Poehler, we’ve seen how sleep apnea can affect even the most accomplished individuals.

By raising awareness, seeking testing and treatment, and making necessary lifestyle changes, these athletes and celebrities have shown that it’s possible to overcome the challenges of sleep apnea and continue to excel in their chosen fields.

Let their stories serve as a reminder that sleep apnea is a condition that can be managed, and with determination and the right support, anyone can triumph over this sleep disorder and achieve their dreams.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which famous people have sleep apnea?

Many celebrities have acknowledged suffering from sleep apnea, including Shaquille O'Neal, Amy Poehler, Carrie Fisher, Shonda Rhimes, Tony Robbins and Rosie O'Donnell.

What is the life expectancy of someone with sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can lead to a variety of health issues and significantly reduce life expectancy if not managed properly. Studies suggest those with sleep apnea before the age of fifty have a life expectancy between 8 and 18 years.

Does Shaq still have sleep apnea?

Yes, Shaq still has sleep apnea and needs to use a sleep machine to manage it.

How many NFL players have sleep apnea?

Around 60% of former NFL players and 30% of current players are believed to suffer from sleep apnea.

How many concussions did Brett Favre suffer?

Brett Favre estimated that he suffered an incredible 1,000 concussions during his Hall of Fame career.


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