Politics|Biden Has Begun Using a CPAP Machine for Sleep Apnea


Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which one’s breathing is interrupted as one sleeps. The president has had the condition for more than a decade.

President Biden speaking into microphones. A small indention is on his face.
President Biden still had indentations on his face from using the CPAP machine when he spoke at an event in Chicago on Wednesday.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Michael D. Shear

President Biden has begun using a CPAP machine in recent weeks to help deal with sleep apnea, a common disorder in which one’s breathing is interrupted as one sleeps, White House officials said Wednesday.

When Mr. Biden left the White House on Wednesday morning for a speech in Chicago, he had indentations across both sides of his face from having worn the device, known as a continuous positive airway pressure machine.

“Since 2008, the president has disclosed his history with sleep apnea in thorough medical reports,” said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman. “He used a CPAP machine last night, which is common for people with that history.”

CPAP machines are among the most widely used treatments for sleep apnea. The machines deliver a continuous stream of air into masks worn during sleep, helping to keep breathing passages open and ensuring that people receive the oxygen they need.

Sleep apnea is thought to affect roughly 30 million Americans, and it can bring with it a range of consequences: Not only can a lack of oxygen disrupt sleep, but it can also raise the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Manufacturers have estimated in recent years that some 8 million people in the United States use CPAP machines. The devices filter and pressurize air drawn from a bedroom and deliver it through a tube into the mask. Mr. Biden’s use of such a machine was first reported by Bloomberg.

Mr. Biden disclosed his sleep apnea more than a decade ago, but his presidential doctor did not mention the condition in either of the two letters assessing his health in 2021 and 2023. In 2019, his doctor noted that Mr. Biden had undergone several nasal passage surgeries to help sinus symptoms.

A White House official said that those surgeries had appeared to help, but did not eliminate, the sleep apnea symptoms. The official, who asked for anonymity to discuss details about the president’s health, said that the president had begun wearing the CPAP device in recent weeks in an attempt to improve the quality of his sleep.

Benjamin Mueller contributed reporting from New York.

Michael D. Shear is a veteran White House correspondent and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who was a member of the team that won the Public Service Medal for Covid coverage in 2020. He is the co-author of “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.” @shearm

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