June 19, 2023 5 min read
According to H. Dugan in his 1947 pieceBedlam in the Boudoir, twenty of the (then) thirty-two Presidents of the United States are believed to have been a “nocturnal nuisance in the White House .” From some of America’s Founding Fathers to modern-era presidents, it looks like many of our Commanders in Chief were quite prone to this annoying habit, just like the rest of us.
And that’s pretty understandable. Being head of the government of the United States is one of the hardest jobs in the world. So much responsibility can get stressful, leading to a number of health problems. And as you know, stress has a profound effect on health by causing sleep disturbances, hormonal imbalances, and weight gain — all risk factors for snoring. If snoring continues for a long time, it can even progress into sleep apnea .
But which presidents exactly would spend their nights sawing logs? If you’re interested in this trivia, here is a short list of the best-known offenders.
The history of presidential snoring began with none other than the Father of the Nation. George Washington reportedly suffered a number of serious illnesses throughout his lifetime, despite taking good care of his health. He was reportedly worried about dying early, so he turned to eating a healthy diet, exercising, and avoiding tobacco. But despite his efforts, this Founding Father suffered from a number of serious infections, including malaria, pneumonia, and quinsy. Given his frequent bouts of severe illness, it’s really not surprising he was also prone to snoring.
Weighing over 300 pounds with a body mass index of 42, William Taft was no doubt the heaviest president in US history. Unsurprisingly, he was reported to have suffered from sleep apnea as a result. His wife and many other observers recount him falling asleep and snoring during important meetings. According to an article published inChest, Taft’s daytime sleepiness, snoring, hypertension, and cognitive and emotional problems during his presidency all strongly point to sleep apnea, which wasn’t a known medical condition at the time . After leaving office, he lost 60 pounds and his notorious sleepiness wasn’t an issue serving as Chief Justice of the United States.
Grover Cleveland was the second heaviest POTUS and also likely suffered from sleep apnea due to his weight, snoring, thick neck, and love of beer . All these are risk factors for snoring as well as sleep apnea. Excess weight, for instance, especially in the neck area can constrict the upper airway and make it harder for someone to breathe as they doze off. Alcohol can further increase a person’s risk of upper airway collapse because it is a sedative. There is no conclusive evidence this president had the disease, though. But what we do know from his personal letters is that he did definitely snore.
One of America’s most beloved presidents wasn’t as popular in a Washington hospital during one of his stays there. His snoring was apparently so loud that every patient in the hospital’s wing filed a complaint . He had to be assigned his own floor so other patients could sleep and recuperate. Because he gained a significant amount of weight later in life and because he died relatively young in his sleep, some speculate he might have had sleep apnea as well. However, this is unlikely given that he was fit, energetic, and didn’t show signs of somnolence during his waking hours
Besides hailing from the same wealthy Roosevelt family and also serving as POTUS, Franklin shared another thing in common with Teddy: snoring and possibly sleep apnea. The 32nd POTUS suffered polio at the age of 39 , and sleep apnea and other sleep problems are common in people with post-polio syndrome . He also smoked, which is a habit that can put a person at risk of snoring and other health problems. By the end of his life, Roosevelt complained of extreme fatigue and would nod off during conversations. He developed high blood pressure and heart failure, which could explain his lethargy but could also be due to sleep apnea.
The 14th President of the United States served during a time of apparent tranquility and is best known for joining the temperance movement and later supporting the Prohibition movement. However, historical records show he didn’t live up to his ideals and was a heavy drinker, eventually dying from cirrhosis of the liver. While there’s no evidence he was a snorer, we know from research and everyday life that drinking tends to make people snore . Alcohol relaxes upper airway muscles and has a depressant effect on the brain — which can cause apnea episodes even in simple snorers.
Both father and son seemed to have been notable snorers, which suggests there was some genetic link at play. According to an article in theJournal of the History of the Neurosciences,both presidents had essential tremors, cerebrovascular disease, depression, and alcoholism . Given their poor health and the fact that both men were overweight, snoring was most likely an issue. However, there are no historical records to prove this.
Many 21st-century presidents have also been reported to snore, and Obama is one of them. According to his wife Michelle Obama, among other things she finds annoying about her husband is his incessant snoring. Besides apparently being a chronic snorer, President Obama also has some unusual sleeping habits. He is reported to be a night owl, often working late into the night but still managing to wake up by 7 am.
So, there you have it. Snoring is a prevalent problem that affects even the best of our leaders. While many expect the POTUS to be in tip-top shape so they can govern effectively, presidents are human like the rest of us.
February 20, 2024 3 min read
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