Perry Downplays Sleep Apnea That Office Confirmed

The second annual Texas Tribune Festival kicked off with with a conversation between Texas governor Rick Perry and Tribune founder and CEO Evan Smith in the Grand Ballroom of the AT&T Conference Center in Austin, Texas on September 21, 2012.
The second annual Texas Tribune Festival kicked off with with a conversation between Texas governor Rick Perry and Tribune founder and CEO Evan Smith in the Grand Ballroom of the AT&T Conference Center in Austin, Texas on September 21, 2012.

Gov. Rick Perry is downplaying the effects that a previously undiagnosed sleep disorder had on his ill-fated presidential campaign.

On Sunday, Perry’s office released a statement to CNN confirming that Perry was diagnosed with the disorder during the presidential race. The condition, characterized by breathing disruptions and snoring, robs its victims of productive sleep.

“Gov. Perry was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea during the campaign and was treated with a breathing machine for a few weeks,” a Perry aide told CNN. "Once the governor's back recovered sufficiently to return to his regular exercise routine, the apnea issue was resolved and no further treatment was necessary."

But Perry, contradicting his own office, cast doubt on the diagnosis on Thursday. Perry confirmed that he had sleep troubles during his disastrous run for the White House, but in remarks reported by the Houston Chronicle, he blamed pain in his foot that resulted from back surgery in July 2011.

“I slept pretty much all night last night. Best I can tell, I didn’t snore or make any untowards noises,” Perry said. “My issue was one of a hyper-fusion of that nerve in my foot that kept me awake and we just couldn’t — we looked at a lot of different things.”

As for the sleep apnea, Perry said a doctor told him, “You may have it, you may not.” He said he is “sleeping rather well now.”

Both the foot pain and the sleep apnea, contributing factors to the governor's heavily disturbed sleep, were disclosed in the book Oops! A Diary from the Campaign Trail, written by this reporter.

Perry initially downplayed his back surgery. Aides called it a “minor procedure” at the time, but later the governor acknowledged that the fallout from it contributed to his nosedive. Perry has struggled with sleep for years, numerous aides have said. Perry's former consultant, Dave Carney, identified sleep deprivation as a major factor in Perry's downward slide.

Perry "made a statement that was relayed to some of us by Dave Carney, that he hadn’t had a full night of sleep since sometime in the 1970s,” a former presidential campaign adviser recalled. Once the sleep apnea was discovered, the campaign tried to get him help — just as his White House fortunes were sinking like a stone.

“He was diagnosed with sleep apnea,” the adviser said. “There was a concerted effort with the help of physicians to give him as much relief as possible and part of that was a CPAP machine to deal with the sleep apnea.” Short for "continuous positive airway pressure," the device exerts air into the nose and mouth through a plastic mask to ensure constant breathing.

Perry, an exercise nut, was able to sleep better once he was able to get back in the gym and increase his energy level. By then his gaffe-prone campaign had tanked, though.

“He was the old Rick Perry, he was the candidate that we all hoped he would be,” the adviser said. “But the window had closed.”

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