Perry struggled with sleep disorder during campaign
September 23rd, 2012
05:06 PM ET
10 years ago

Perry struggled with sleep disorder during campaign

(CNN) - New behind-the-scenes details are emerging about Rick Perry's presidential campaign, one that started strong but shriveled after a series of surprising gaffes and misstatements.

A spokesperson with Perry's office confirmed an account in a new book that the Texas governor discovered he had "mild sleep apnea" during his White House bid.

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Perry, who entered the race late in August 2011, drew criticism for not taking his presidential run seriously because of his mistakes on the campaign trail. The most memorable moment, perhaps, came in a Michigan debate in November, when Perry failed to remember the third federal agency he had proposed eliminating. He named two, but could not come up with the third, even after appearing to consult notes.

"I would do away with the Education, the, uh, Commerce, and, let's see. I can't," Perry said, after struggling to come up with the name for 53 seconds. "The third one I can't. Sorry. Oops."

Some attributed the mental lapse, as well as a candid and comedic New Hampshire speech days earlier, to painkillers after Perry underwent back surgery in the summer of 2011. Perry's team maintained the governor discontinued use of the medicine prior to the start of his campaign.

A Perry spokesperson said the governor, however, found out he had a sleep condition.

"The Governor's July 2011 back surgery and his late entry into the presidential race presented obstacles during his campaign. Gov. Perry was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea during the campaign and was treated with a breathing machine for a few weeks," the spokeswoman said in a statement Sunday.

"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."

Perry's sleep problems were first reported in a new book, "Oops," by Texas Tribune reporter Jay Root.

"After conducting overnight tests on Perry, they produced a rather startling diagnosis: He had sleep apnea, and it had gone undetected for years, probably decades," Root writes, according to an excerpt of the book posted on the Texas Tribune website.

The ailment, Root continues, affects one in 10 men worldwide and "causes loud snoring and temporary lapses in breathing that disrupt normal sleep." Doctors prescribed a breathing machine to help alleviate symptoms, and Perry, an exercise junkie, soon got back to normal once he was able to work out again.

"The way he told it later, all that rigorous physical activity over the year had kept his sleep apnea in check," Root writes. "Then back surgery he underwent in July 2011 sidelined him, kept him out of the gym, and he went from light sleeper to insomniac."

Filed under: 2012 • Rick Perry
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Funny, guy put me right to sleep

    September 23, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  2. Marla

    This guy has been one giant "oops" for the state of Texas for many years. Using sleep apnea as an excuse just doesn't cut it.

    September 23, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  3. Cheryl

    Neither Perry nor his spokesperson seem to understand much about sleep apnea. I was diagnosed with 'mild to moderate' sleep apnea just over a year ago. It is common in women as well as men. Basically people suffer from sleep apnea because their airway collapses and they must wake themselves up constantly to get oxygen. It has nothing to do with how much you exercise. Despite having been a competitive athlete for much of my life, I struggled with sleep issues. Both my work and my athletic performance improved greatly once I got a breathing machine as a result of my apnea diagnosis. I use the machine regularly and will do so until a cure is found for apnea rather than a therapy. I can see that suffering from apnea might impair Mr. Perry's performance, but I think it is a stretch to imply that that was the main reason his campaign was a disaster. I could be wrong since I am not a doctor, but I have never heard of someone 'temporarily' having apnea or being able to beat it with exercise either. If that were the case, I shouldn't have had it. It is more common in sedentary, overweight individuals but genetics is a factor (my father, who has always been very active and in excellent shape, had severe apnea). If you wake up often at night, snore, and/ or frequently feel tired during the day even after you think you have slept a reasonable amount, go to a sleep center for an evaluation. It could change your life.

    September 23, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  4. T in Dallas

    Living in Texas I can tell you he's been sleep at the wheel long before the failed campaign attempt!

    September 23, 2012 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  5. jack johnson

    So now we have Ryan who says his back injury makes him "LIE". We have Mitt Romney who suffers from the rare form of "FOOT IN MOUTH" Both medicaly nufit to serve as waiters let alone the Presidentcy, and Vice Pesidentcy.

    September 23, 2012 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  6. Squigman

    Not to mention a head that is empty. and suit to match.

    September 23, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |

    So,.. if he suffers from such a debilitating condition,.. why does he think he could function effectively as the Commander in Chief?.

    September 24, 2012 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
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