Sleep Apnea and Bodybuilding

I’ve been bodybuilding for the better part of the past 3 decades now. When I began lifting weights, I was right around 140 lbs at 5’9. I remember seeing this guy walking up the street with his shirt off on this random summer day, and I thought having visible pecs looked pretty impressive and that’s what I wanted for myself.

It didn’t help that I was a child of the 80’s and had all of the action movies that pretty much said, “This is what a man is supposed to look like!” And before that, it didn’t help that I was into He-man action figures which were the most roided out looking toy action figures that have ever existed!

So, building muscle was just something that might has well have just been embedded in my DNA. Going from 140 lbs to 175 lbs in high school wasn’t what I imagined when I got there. I mean, yea my pecs were sticking out and I had some visible muscle mass, but that picture that I had in my head of what I wanted to look like just wasn’t a reality at 175 lbs.

I remember thinking to myself, “Let’s go for 190 lbs since 175 lbs just doesn’t seem big enough to me.” That’s when I began eating bigger to accompany my weight training. Breaking 200 lbs finally happened at 19 years old, and it seemed damn near impossible to even break 200 lbs naturally, but I managed to do it!

Then I thought to myself, “This still isn’t what I imagined I’d look like at 200 lbs, let’s go for 225 lbs next!” At a body weight of 205 lbs already lean, this was when I did my first testosterone only cycle, propelling me to just over 220 lbs. By 220 lbs I was hooked, this wasn’t just lifting weights, this was my life and my passion at that point!

I was still agile, still lean, and bouncing back and forth between cycles and coming off, the up and downs began as I ventured to only get larger and larger. This was back when guys actually went to the grocery stores and bookstores to buy bodybuilding magazines. I can remember standing in the aisles flipping through the magazines and thinking about how far away I still was from achieving that freakish look.

I think that was the biggest thing that intrigued me about building muscle, it was just like this open playing field with no rules as to what you could do to build your body more and more massive and impressive. Every other sport seemed to have rules, where I had found something that seemed like open season, and I thought that was fucking awesome!

As I got into my late 20’s and up to 263 lbs at my largest, and then usually stabilizing around 230-245 lbs as normal “walk around” weight most of the year, my wife told me about my snoring and how bad it was starting to get. My dad had sleep apnea for years, and he didn’t have it addressed and treated until much later in life after the damage was already done. He eventually has arrhythmia that needed to be shocked back into normal sync and was put on lifelong heart medication.

This issue was believed to have been caused from years of horrible sleep, breathing interruptions, and walking around sleep deprived for the better part of his adult life. I first thought to myself, “Yeah but I’m different, I’m all muscle and I eat healthy, that’s not my case at all!” Or was it?

I finally went to a sleep study and I was told that I had a very mild case of sleep apnea, nothing major but they did find 4 interruptions with my breathing throughout the course of the night. So, I thought to myself, “Okay, well I guess I’ll try a CPAP machine and see what happens.”

The first facepiece I decided to try was just a nose piece, because the thought of a mask covering my nose AND mouth while I was asleep didn’t seem too appealing to me.

Well, that didn’t go so well at all. Any time I would open my mouth in my sleep just the slightest bit I would think I was choking, and I’d rip the son of a bitch off my head in my sleep. So, this went on throughout the night and most of the time I’d wake up to the tube blowing air on the floor and feeling like I was sleeping worse than not using anything at all. I gave up on it for a while, until I decided to order a full-face mask and give that a shot.

I ordered a mask that allowed me to sleep in any position and although some nights were manageable, most of the time the fucking thing just annoyed me, and I’d take it off. After going through this for a bit and convinced that it wasn’t doing jack shit, I packed the thing up and gave up on the entire process for about the next 4-5 years or so.

My snoring progressively got worse, and although I was tired throughout most of the day, I just told myself that I was getting older and this was just part of the process, SHIT SLEEP! Now, one thing you have to understand about me is that I’m the kind of guy that is going to get to the gym regardless of how I feel. Whether I was feeling wiped out and like absolute dog shit, didn’t sleep but 2 hours the night before, or feeling like I just had an MMA match with Royce Gracie, I was still getting my ass to that gym!

As other guys might notice (especially once in your 40s and up), recovery felt worse, fat loss felt more difficult, and little injuries began to mount up. But I’m a stubborn fuck and I kept on to the vicious routine of putting my body through hell to look better than the next guy, despite how bad I felt some days!

Now, I had a vacation coming up and thought to myself about how I wanted to actually feel refreshed and rested, and maybe I would try that CPAP for a few nights while I was away and see if I couldn’t tolerate it and get a little better rest while I was off.

The first few nights it sat in its case and never came out, and I drank alcohol and was informed that my snoring was even worse when I drank. I don’t drink often, but this was a vacation and I thought to myself, “Let it go for just a few days and enjoy life a little bit.”

Yes, I still bought a week travel pass and trained on vacation, because I’m a stubborn son of a bitch and nothing stops my training! Now, if this isn’t the damn definition of irony then I don’t know what the hell is. One of my former training clients had sent me a voice message on a messenger app I use and talked about how he was diagnosed with sleep apnea and had to get a CPAP machine.

I messaged him back and talked about my experience with it and how it seemed difficult to get used to, but how I was aware of health issues that can come from sleep apnea and that I needed to start using mine again myself.

After I left the message back to him, I felt like a schmuck. Here I am, knowledgeable about an issue, having been through the process, and my CPAP was with me on vacation just sitting in the case and hadn’t been pulled out yet. I thought to myself, “I’m hooking this fucking thing up tonight and giving it another shot!” I tried to wear it as I fell sleep that night, and again had taken it off. The sound of the air blowing through the tube began to piss me off and I didn’t like the thought of this process I had to go through just to go to fucking sleep!

I went to bed with it off my head again, and then I woke up about 3 hours later to take a piss. As I returned to the bed, I looked at the damn thing, and said to myself, “Okay, let’s try the fucking thing again and see if we can’t get to sleep this time.”


I woke up about 5 hours later and IT FELT LIKE SOMEONE GAVE ME A NEW BODY!

I’m talking about a feeling of HOLY… FUCKING… SHIT… LET’S FUCKING GO!

That day everything was smoother. My workout was better, my pump was bigger, my temperament and patience were greater, and something just felt like it had finally clicked! All I could think about was how wearing that stupid thing for just half the night made such a profound difference in the way I felt.

I looked forward to putting it on again that night and seeing if I could wear it the entire night. Well, as luck would have it, I ended up wearing it all night the following night without tearing it off. I focused on my breathing as the air came through it, I relaxed and thought of it more as a process of recovery and meditation than a burden. The next day I woke up feeling even better than the day before, which was hard to imagine even being possible!

Again, the workout was excellent, the pump was bigger, hell I even seemed to look more vascular! I looked less tired in my face, I was in a good mood the entire day, and things that would normally bother me didn’t seem to irritate me.

Ok, now at this point I was a believer. Yes, I had sleep issues for sure if this was how I had felt after being able to successfully wear this fucker and feel this damn good the next morning and throughout the entire day! I had thought to myself, “Okay, you got me, I’m a believer now!”

I walked around all day actually looking forward to going to bed that night because I knew that I was catching up on some much-needed rest…. AFTER YEARS OF SHIT SLEEP!

The following night, same thing! I awoke the next morning feeling even better than the first couple of days after wearing that mask, something I couldn’t have even imagined!

My desire for caffeine had decreased, no pre-workout even needed before the gym.

Funny enough, I always thought back to how it was in the beginning of bodybuilding when pre-workout drinks weren’t even a thing. I would admittedly walk around over the past few years thinking to myself, “When did you get so weak that you needed pre-workout drinks to make it to the gym? How did this happen when you used to just do it with willpower alone and now you always feel like you need some sort of fucking crutch?”


Yes, of course life’s responsibilities and stress can take its toll on us, but maybe there was something that I was overlooking? I think we can often get to a point in life where we just assume this is the way it is, and that’s just life. So, we accept shit sleep and feeling beat up around the clock and stick to the grind anyways, because that’s just what men do!

I’m telling you, I felt like this little sleep machine was a new form of performance enhancement, and why shouldn’t it be? I mean for fuck’s sake, I’m taking TRT, regular Cialis use for my prostate, a small daily dosage of Simvastatin to keep my cholesterol in check, donating blood on the regular, I mean I’m doing all of these other proactive measures to stay healthy and on top of my A-game, why the fuck didn’t I ever consider sleep as the most important performance measure to begin with?

Again, I never considered it because it’s a societal norm that we ARE SUPPOSED TO BE WORN OUT AND EXHAUSTED WHEN WE GRIND!

The reality of things and full benefits of recovery didn’t hit me until I began feeling better. It’s like as soon as I started sleeping better and felt like I had a clear head all of the issues of shit sleep I began thinking about.

Everything from elevated cortisol and adrenal fatigue to insulin sensitivity, gym pumps, muscle gains, fat-loss, and sense of well-being became more evident after I finally got some decent fucking sleep!

Another funny thing was that I found dieting hard to be even easier and I had actually gained a few lbs relatively fast, which I’d like to think of as quality muscle volume due to increased recovery! I’ll be damned, all because of a stupid fucking CPAP machine that I should have been disciplined enough to get accustomed to several years prior!


If you’re reading this article and wondering if you might have sleep apnea

  1. If you are over 200 lbs and have built your body up over the years, or have a thicker and muscular neck, you probably have sleep apnea
  2. If you open your mouth and have trouble clearly seeing that hangy-ball in the back of your throat, you probably have sleep apnea
  3. If you woke up a few hours ago, and already want to fall asleep in your office chair, you probably have sleep apnea
  4. If you snore like a motherfucker and/or wake yourself up coughing in your sleep, you probably have sleep apnea

If you know you have it and haven’t addressed it yet. I’m going to give you some pointers here and help you out.

  1. If you don’t have insurance, you can still get a script for a CPAP machine, you’re probably looking at $500-$1000 on one without insurance (it’s still worth it, trust me! Some places sell refurbished ones that are more affordable, you can check online)
  2. If you open your mouth in your sleep then don’t even fuck with just the nose attachment, go full face and consider one where the tube comes in from the top and allows you to sleep in almost any position.
  3. Make sure the pressure is adjusted up enough you can comfortably breathe with it on your face (pressure not turned up enough will make you rip it off your face)
  4. Think of sleep as an enjoyable process, a meditative time when you put the fucking thing on and just relax and breathe! Do not think of it as a hassle or an ailment.
  5. Be sure to use distilled water so you don’t get a dry mouth from wearing it.
  6. Don’t be a hit or miss guy with it, use it enough that you get used to it (being hit and miss is where I fucked up with it, and I wish I was more disciplined to use it regularly and get used to it years ago!)

If only I had someone that could have explained all of the benefits of this damn thing to me earlier on. Of course, you’ll hear all the common Doctor shit about health issues and whatnot, but if only I had someone that actually explained ALL OF THE BENEFITS of using a CPAP machine as a bodybuilder! I’m talking things like fat-loss, insulin sensitivity, lower cortisol levels and avoiding adrenal burnout, better gains, bigger gym pumps, enhanced recovery, all that sort of shit would have been beneficial to hear back then!

I’m not trying to desensitize the priority of health here as #1, but let’s just be honest, the fucking thing helps performance and recovery as a bodybuilder!

Some of the hurdles that you face in the department of physique development may have a lot less to do with performance enhancement, pre-workout powders, and protein intake as you may have thought.



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8 thoughts on “Sleep Apnea and Bodybuilding”

  1. Want to feel even better? Get an oxygen concentrator and feed that in to the CPAP hose. Set it on 2-3 liters per min. I got the Respironics Everflo machine. I think it was about $850 or so. You will need an adapter that will go between the CPAP machine and the hose. It has an outlet for the oxygen supply to connect to.

    You’lll be glad you did.
    Train hard and sleep great!

  2. This is a great article. I tested for sleep apnea 6 years ago and was found to have a minor case. Just enough to be positive. The doctor recommended CPAP. I told him he was full of shit and just wanted to bill. 6 years later my wife told me my snoring had gotten so bad she couldn’t sleep next to me. It was worse if I even had one drink. I saw the ENT believing it was my nose that has been broken at least 6 times from boxing, karate and judo growing up and through college. The ENT said my nose had a deviated septum but it was not severe, did not require surgery and was not the main cause of my tiredness and snoring. I retested and the results were now severe sleep apnea. The ENT recommended CPAP and I agreed to it so I would not be trading spending nights on the couch with my wife and because my training partner admitted to me that he’d used one for the past 5 years and it was
    “a game changer.” The first day was HARD to get used to, but I woke up feeling refreshed and energized. I still hate it, but it works and I won’t go back. Stop lying to yourself, get the test and do it if its recommended. Save yourself years of shit sleep and a pissed off wife. Hopefully, JDB saying he did it will help some of you decide to do it too.

  3. Really great article. I have yet to get tested, but I’d say it’s 90% I have sleep apnea. I never considered it possible to sleep with one of those masks on my face, but this article has been the kick in the ass I needed to begin doing more research into this.

  4. Damn!!! Thanks for your post John.

    I have CPAP i’ve bought during plandemic time, because i’m sure i have apnea. I mean, when i’m falling asleep on my back i just feel i got chocked and i wake up. The only way to sleep form is on my side.

    So i decided to get a CPAP and ordered a full face mask. The few times i tried it, i felt claustrophobic at once. I just couldn’t put the thing over 5 seconds. I had fear if the electricity goes off i would die suffocating unable to take the damn thing off my face.

    The CPAP is still in it’s box waiting for me to decide to give it new try.

    • turn the flow rate up a bit and I’ve found that when the temp control feature is there, the cool air coming in (temp set at 65 deg F for me) is sort of refreshing and helps me out. You would wake yourself up if the electricity went off, you wouldn’t just die with a mask on in your sleep, hahahah

  5. I’m having a bitch of a time with sleep apnea. I’m 33 yrs old, 5’10” 220 9-10%bf. I’ve had sleep apnea for almost 10 years but was only diagnosed with it about 6 years ago, I have a BI-PAP machine which is a bit different then a cpap, I have severe apnea, I stop breathing approx 60times per hour, the thing with bi-paps is you can’t change the goddamn pressure yourself, it has to be changed by the doctor which is fucking bullshit. I’ve probably used the thing a handful of times since I got it 6 years ago and it cost me 4g. After reading this article it’s given me a big fuckin push of motivation to make an appointment with my sleep doctor, the thing is the wait is 3-6 months. You have no idea how hard it is to hit the gym with beast mode intensity feel like a pile of fucking shit. I know if I could just get the pressure changed and actually learn to be able to tolerate falling asleep with it on I’d be able to reach my physique goals even better. Getting to where I am I’ve had to fight tooth and nail through my piss poor genetics and tired ass all these years. I need this change like yesterday

    • best of luck man, yes you have to get this addressed and on track! For your health if anything, thanks for following! -JD


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