Texas Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder has started to wear a breathing mask at nighttime after being diagnosed earlier this week with sleep apnea.
Fielder addressed his sleeping issues Friday morning, saying that the condition had started affecting him on the field only recently despite being told for years that he was a loud snorer who would stop breathing while he slept.
He returned to Texas on Wednesday for a sleep test, which revealed that he stopped breathing 39 times per hour. Doctors told him that sleep apnea becomes severe at 30 stoppages per hour.
“So, that’s probably super extreme,” Fielder said. “My wife was always telling me that I was snoring loud and wasn’t breathing, but when you’re young it doesn’t affect you as much. I started to feel it a little bit more. I didn’t feel like I was waking up fresh.”
Sleep apnea is a common condition that affects 18 million adults in the United States, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Former Rangers All-Star Mike Napoli has sleep apnea and underwent surgery to alleviate the problem after the 2014 season.
“I’m just going to go with the mask, bro,” Fielder said.
Fielder suspects that he has been affected by it for several years, possibly as far back to his 50-homer season in 2006. He swatted 23 homers and drove in 98 runs while batting .305 in his comeback season from neck surgery in 2015.
He expects that his performance will improve with better sleep.
“Believe it,” Fielder said.