Amy Poehler on her struggle with sleep apnea: ‘Sleep helps you win at life’

Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler’s Yes Please has climbed to the top of all the bestseller charts. Several of my friends have read the book and loved it, and I’m late to the game but plan to crack into it over the holidays. All of the excerpts should have led me that way already, especially when Amy delivers straight talk about divorce and balancing work and family. She has a way of telling relatively mundane life adventures in an interesting way. It’s a talent.

Amy’s released some new excerpts about sleep. It seems like a simple, “meh” discussion, but she suffers from sleep apnea. She wakes up 20-30 times every night. Having children only made her issue worse to the point where she became sleep deprived. She even fell asleep standing up on the Parks & Rec set! Give this woman some coffee:

On losing sleep as a parent: “The sleep deprivation after children is so real. I liken it to what it must feel like to walk on the moon and cry the whole time because you had heard that the moon was supposed to be great but in truth it totally sucks.”

She slept at work: “I slept wherever I could. Twenty minutes at lunch. During production meetings. In my car. I remember being filled with rage when childless people would talk about brunch.” She had her second son, Abel, two years later and said she “aged a hundred years in his first year.”

Why sleep is important: “One good night’s sleep can help you realize that you shouldn’t break up with someone, or you are being too hard on your friend, or you actually will win the race or the game or get the job. Sleep helps you win at life.”

She’s a big snorer: “Throughout my life I have been told I snore so loudly that it sounds like I am dying or choking. I come from a family of snorers and we all used to record each other to show each other the damning evidence. I am convinced my body is trying to gently strangle me to death.”

Sleeping with a CPAP machine is like eating veggies: “You know it’s good for you but most of the time you don’t feel like it.”

[From HuffPo]

Reading all of that sounds rough. I’m a solid sleeper and can sleep anywhere. Sometimes tornado sirens don’t even wake me up, but … I did not sleep last night. For the first time in a very long time, it happened. So I’m selfishly feeling Amy’s pain ever so slightly now. Feeling tired sucks, and a lifetime of feeling tired seems like torture. Amy eventually sought help with a sleep clinic at age 40. She wishes she did it sooner. Sleep apnea can be very dangerous (even fatal), so it’s good that she found help. We need Amy’s wit and wisdom on this planet.

Amy Poehler

Photos courtesy of WENN

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41 Responses to “Amy Poehler on her struggle with sleep apnea: ‘Sleep helps you win at life’”

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  1. Green Girl says:

    She is so right about the lack of sleep. If I am running on only a few hours of sleep, my problems feel magnified and seem about 10000 times worse than they really are.

  2. Dorothy#1 says:

    Why sleep is important: “One good night’s sleep can help you realize that you shouldn’t break up with someone. Does this mean she wishes she was still with Will Arnet? I loved them together and am still sad they divorced.

  3. Lee says:

    Yeah, she’s so right about how annoying and stupid other people are when you’re tired. The world of the sleep-deprived is a darker place.

  4. Lexi says:

    I love her in that plaid jacket. Not I think she was, but I hate when parents compare/complain about non-parents. Not all us child-less folk can go to brunch. We have other stuff that can be just as stressful. No one forced you to have children, you went into it aware of the pros and cons of parenthood. Rant over.

    • Marigold says:

      Yeah, but she was specifically talking about the child free people who *are* going to brunch. She never said that’s what all childfree people do. You recognize that but still make a broad generalization. I hate when childfree people say those with children shouldn’t complain. Just because you know something has pros and cons doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to complain. If that were the case, no one would be allowed to complain ever.

    • Macey says:

      agreed! I cant tell you how many times I hear comments like that or the old stand by..”you dont know what its like since you dont have kids”…grrrrr. Always gets me going when ppl think your struggles are so trivial compared to the struggles of those with kids.

      aside from that, she’s not kidding about how having a decent night’s sleep really changes everything. I wouldnt know since I havent had one in ages, insomnia has always been a problem for me. There are some days I know Im so tired that I probably shouldn’t even be driving but you can’t call in for not being able to sleep. The few times I have felt rested, I couldnt believe how much energy I had or how my mood completely changed. Just wish there was a way to get that without having to take sleeping pills all the time.

      • CatJ says:

        I had weaned myself off sleeping pills until I was put into ICU with H1N1 double pneumonia. They call the pharmacy you deal with and get a list of your prescriptions, and, bam, I was given the sleeping pills again. After my ordeal, I asked the GP if I could go off them, and he recommended I stay on them. He said “you need to sleep, your body needs to sleep, so take the pills…..sleep heals your body and mind…”.

      • qwerty says:


        Have your thyroid checked. Hyporthyroidism gave me terrible insomnia.

    • Sarah says:

      The pros & cons exist in your imagination until you’ve actually lived it.

      When you haven’t slept well for days, weeks or months, little things that shouldn’t matter become gigantic. Like hearing about brunch. Or going to the movies. Or getting a haircut. Or stopping by the store to get a gallon of milk without stares from people wondering why you don’t take your tantruming kid home. It’s because. you. need. milk.

      I have sleep apnea and a child with special needs who has experienced significant sleep issues. We’ve both gotten help, so things are better. But in the midst of massive sleep deprivation, everything feels insurmountable – and you’re trying to meet your needs along with those of a small, vulnerable human being who relies on you for survival. It’s monumental.

      Being able to go to brunch isn’t bad at all. It’s a small thing – until it seems entirely out of reach. But hopefully, eventually it’s not again.

      • Sarah says:

        To be clear, I don’t want to play into the idea that not having children means life is somehow less real or your challenges aren’t as hard. Sleep deprivation sucks no matter what. It makes everything harder no matter what. I think her point was that without adequate rest – in her case due to a sleep disorder & kids who aren’t sleeping – she was jealous about simple things, because sleep deprivation makes you literally crazy. Sleep is a foundation for health and basic functioning. Without it, you start to feel cuckoo.

        If your kids are a source of your lack of sleep, childless brunch looks like rainbows and unicorns and magic fairy dust. Which it’s clearly not. I’ve read Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”. Brunch is pretty much a gross meal invented by Lucifer. Not unlike feeding mashed peas to a toddler.

        Have a good day, all.

      • Sarah says:

        Well god bless, as mothers we’ve all had our struggles, but some more than others. Sounds like you have had a heavy load, so I’m sending you well wishes and good vibes!

    • Ag says:

      “No one forced you to have children, you went into it aware of the pros and cons of parenthood.” i am pretty sure that no one (well, maybe outside of a tiny, tiny percentage of people) would have children if they were fully aware of everything that having a small child entails. LOL there is no way whatsoever that one can imagine how difficult it all is, how different your life becomes, and how prolonged sleep deprivation can mess you up. i am speaking as a person who thought that she understood the pros/cons – i had no idea about either. and as a person who used to have serious insomnia.

      i didn’t see her comment as an “attack” on people who don’t have kids – just a comment on her life experiences. i wish both people who have kids and who don’t have kids would stop this competing “woe is me, you have NO idea, stop attacking my life style choices” nonsense. because, truly, none of us have any idea.

  5. amanda says:

    i love she shares that she has a sleep apnea machine at home. My mom just recently started snoring after years of not snoring, but never seeming to get enough restful sleep, so she went to the doctor and had some sleep studies done and now she has a machine to help her.

    the machines are not sexy or easy, but a lot of people need them and I’m glad that a person with a loud voice and audience shared that about herself.

    • Trashaddict says:

      This. There are tons of people out there with sleep apnea. I’m really glad she’s talking about it.

  6. Grace says:

    Why is she always talking about her problems?

    • Marigold says:

      Because she’s human. It’s what we do.

      • Sarah says:

        You’re reading coverage of her autobiography. The book she wrote about her life. Which has happiness and problems. The problems are likely to get more media response.

  7. AntiSocialButterfly says:

    So glad she speaks about sleep apnea… many hold the misconception that it occurs only in the overweight, which Amy clearly is not. She may have a sharply angled soft palate causing her issues. I had a sleep study which showed some pretty mild apnea due to palatal slant & had a special appliance made that created a bit of a jaw thrust to open that space. It was awful though, and I do just fine on two pillows. I can totally relate to her fatigue, especially with frequently waking little ones. It’s rough. Best to her.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I really feel for her, and you as well. I have occasional insomnia and I just feel like crap for two days afterwards. I can’t imagine having interrupted sleep every night. 🙁

    • Ag says:

      glad you found out what was up with you! (i’m trying to get my husband to get a sleep study done – it might be an occupational hazard because i deal with claims sometimes involving sleep apnea for a living, but it frightens the crap out of me when he snores like crazy and then stops breathing. and, yeah, he is the opposite of overweight, and we have a small child, so his weight isn’t seen as a factor and his fatigue is ascribed to very different causes. sigh.)

      • Sarah says:

        I’ve had doctors say, “You don’t look like a typical sleep apnea candidate.” But I have it. If I sleep without a C-PAP, my jaw thrusts forward to get enough air and I wake up with terrible TMJ problems. (One doctor suggested telling my kids I’m putting on my “Snuffleupagus Mask”.) Sleep studies are weird, but can be so helpful. Finding a doc who takes fatigue seriously was a relief. I wish you & your husband well, with lots of warm, cozy nights of sleep!

    • notsoanonymous says:

      I came here to say the same thing. I’m of average weight and build, yet I have sleep apnea for similar reasons and use a CPAP (much like Amy, it’s like eating vegetables to me… I might even like vegetables more.) I was diagnosed at 27 when I was in the best shape of my life and completely fit. It is an issue with my anatomy.

  8. korra says:

    Omg, she totally gets it. Mine isn’t nearly as bad as hers though. I’ve struggled with sleeping my entire life. It would literally take me on average 2-3 hours to sleep at night. And even then I’d wake up early. I was happy to get 5-6 hours of restless sleep, where I’d wake up all the time. I was exhausted.

    This past summer my job was heavy on physical labor that it would only take me an hour maybe an hour and a half tops to get to bed because my body was so drained. I was so happy. Then when it stopped my sleep problems came back. Now that I have a relatively steady job, I sleep at around the same time every night and wake up around the same time almost every day. For the most part it’s I lay my head down on the pillow and sleep within an hour, but wake up around 5:30 – 6 and not want to leave my bed because I’m just way to freaking tired.

    • Sarah says:

      No one believes me when I say just how long it takes me to fall asleep each night. And then they offer all these helpful suggestions, like take this herb, don’t drink caffeine after 3 pm, etc. as if at 41 after a lifetime of sleep issues, these would be brand new ideas I’d never heard of.

      Just a few years ago, I woke up around 6:30 am feeling oddly ok about being awake. It slowly dawned on me that the last time I’d seen the clock was around 12:15 and that based on my position when I woke up, I’d most likely slept for 6 straight hours. The only time in my adult life that has ever, ever happened. I started to cry, I was so happy. But it’s never happened since. Sigh.

      I knew Amy and I were connected some way. 😉

  9. Jess says:

    Love her, love the audiobook for her book, and totally agree with her on sleep. I am a good sleeper but if I have a bad night’s sleep everything seems harder the next day. Love her so much!

  10. Mel M says:

    Totally agree. Even with both of my littles sleeping through the night now I have developed terrible insomnia and wake up multiple times a night. I’ve tried all kinds of natural and not so natural remedies to no avail and it sucks. I am always thinking about sleep and never can.

  11. deezee says:

    Yes my partner was a extremely loud snorer. Finally convinced her to get checked and she had severe sleep apnea. The CPAP was not her favourite thing at first but she sleeps better, is less tired, and it even helps with her struggles with depression.

  12. Patricia says:

    My baby is four months old and he is NOT a good sleeper. I’ve only gotten a handful of three hour stretches of sleep since he was born. Yesterday he had his shots so he especially did not sleep well, thrashed and nursed all night, and I literally didn’t sleep last night.

    Today I have one errand to run and it seems like a huge task. Just eating right and remembering to drink enough water is a task on a day like this! Sleep deprivation is no joke. I feel I’ve lost a big part of myself to it lately. I’m sure I will feel like myself again some day when I get more sleep on a regular basis. So preach, Amy. Preach!!

    • Jess says:

      Patricia, I remember feeling that way after my daughter was born, she had colic and didn’t sleep through the night until she was 7 months old, hardest months of my life and I didn’t recognize myself at all. I’m sure you hear this all the time and will want to drop kick me in the face, but hang in there, it gets better and you will sleep again, this fog will lift soon! 🙂

  13. p says:

    My son’s apnea was horrible. Tonsilectomy. Poof. Sleeping quietly like a baby. All fixed.

  14. nikzilla says:

    Her comments about having kids are exactly why i dont have kids.

    • RobN says:

      Me, too. I like brunch.

    • Trashaddict says:

      nikzilla and RobN – Kudos to you for recognizing your own priorities and not feeling pressured into doing something you shouldn’t. I see some parents who are horrible with their kids and I wonder for the life of me why they had them.

  15. Mzizkrizten says:

    My husband has sleep apnea and has been using the CPAP for 6 months now. I’m jealous of how rested he is now. Our kids are 9 and 7 and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in 9 years 3 months (hard to sleep in the last trimester). I need a daily nap. I can’t even think straight after 1 pm. I’m short tempered and easily annoyed all day erry day. I may need to see a sleep doctor LOL.

  16. bcgirl says:

    Did any Julie Klausner fans out there hear that she’s working with Amy and Billy Eichner on a new Hulu comedy, “Difficult People”?
    Amy and Jules together, holy sh!#!!!

  17. tabasco says:

    I’m glad Amy wrote about this and glad CB picked it out as a “thing.” I think sleep disorders are similar to mental health issues in that they are generally poorly understood by many and can result in behavior that can be mistaken for negative personality traits.

    I have severe Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. For years, I’ve had MAJOR insomnia (go 3-4 days without sleeping, be exhausted, take Ambien and STILL not sleep. DSPD is a real thing. So is restless legs (often caused by anemia). DSPD has a genetic component and is a neurologically-based disorder of the circadian rhythm. Like, you REALLY can’t help it. It mostly causes extreme difficulty falling asleep and being functional during morning hours. I’ve been told it’s sleep apnea (it’s not), it’s something psychiatric (it’s not), just take melatonin (useless for this), etc, etc. I finally, recently found a really good sleep specialist and am on the way to better sleep.

    Amy is right that sleep helps you win at life. I’ve heard that going one night without sleep is akin to having a few beers that morning – – it impairs your ability to function, reason, perform, etc.

  18. Jinx says:

    After I started using a CPAP machine, I even lost weight! Who knew? It took me a year or two of trying different masks before I found one that fit me perfectly. It seems like a lot if sleep centers think one size should fit all.
    If you’ve been given a CPAP machine please use it!
    Thank you Amy for being open about it!

  19. MinnFinn says:

    Lots of insomnia in my family and circle of friends. My best tips are:

    CPAP alternative – A custom fit mouth device patented by a dentist in Twin Cities, MN. (This is not an ad as I do not have any association with the dentist.) I first heard about it from 3 older men that serve on a volunteer committee with me. All 3 men raved about this mouth piece b/c they weren’t tolerating CPAP. An older sister also recently switched from Cpap to this mouth piece and after hard discussion with insurance to cover it and then lots of tweaking at the dentist it finally works and she loves it. No electricity, no buzzing sounds, no face masks.

    Delayed sleep phase – Bright light (10,000 lux) before noon is critical. Buy a SAD light and use it (maybe while getting ready for work) 20-30 minutes every morning.

    The book “No More Sleepless Nights” by Hauri who was director of Mayo Clinic sleep clinic is worth a look. An older book but still very relevant.

  20. Ange says:

    I’m a terrible grinder and snorer, I think my sinus issues add to that. I have been told I stop breathing as well. Hopefully my mouth guard that I’m getting will help, who knows. Maybe I should sleep higher.

    On point about the book: it was ok but Tina and Mindy’s blew it out of the water. I was impressed, though, with how warm a person she seems to be. You can tell Amy cares and I did appreciate that, it was just low on laughs for me.