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Steven Y Park, MD  
Male, 55
New York, NY

Specialties: Sleep-breathing disorders

Interests: Running, Baking, origami
Private Practice
New York, NY
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Does Oprah Have Sleep Apnea?

Jan 13, 2009 - 24 comments



Weight gain









Oprah’s recent revelation in her magazine that she’s back above the 200 pound threshold made a lot of headlines recently. She was quoted as saying that rather than falling off the wagon, the wagon fell on her. Oprah attributes her weight problem to an ongoing thyroid condition. (Check out the thyroid support community and Ask the doctor thyroid forum on this site for more information about your thyroid.)

Ninety percent of women with obstructive sleep apnea in this country are undiagnosed. Instead, they are treated for the signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, such as weight gain, depression, hypothyroidism, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity—many women are susceptible to sleep-breathing problems, especially if you’re peri or post-menopausal.

Here are the tell-tale signs that Oprah may be suffering from untreated sleep apnea, including:

• yo-yo-like weight fluctuations
• her highly publicized diets and weight loss programs
• her well-known thyroid hormone imbalance
• an admitted food addict and cravings for junk food  
• her feelings of depression and anxiety  
• her chronic fatigue

I can prove that Oprah has sleep apnea—all she has to do is to undergo a formal sleep study.


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Avatar universal
by PlateletGal, Jan 13, 2009

I think Oprah's chronic fatigue is due to her hectic lifestyle !

Have you e-mailed this to the Oprah Winfrey show ? If not, I think you should !

206807 tn?1331936184
by R Glass, Jan 13, 2009
The excuses we Americans come up with to justify our obesity never cease to amaze me.  

Avatar universal
by Folgero, Jan 14, 2009
"Fatigue"? Have you seen her programs / media coverage / business activities? That's not fatigue speaking. Fatigue - trust me - is entirely different, and cannot be combined with any of her activities.

First, she suffers - if that's the word - from ordinary middle-age over-weight tiredness, if anything. Second, she ought to apologize to all fatigued viewers for describing herself with that word.

The reason you never see fatigued people on the Oprah show is that the two cannot be combined, even as part of the audience!

195469 tn?1388322888
by Heather3418, Jan 14, 2009
Dr. Park

I fit everything Oprah states, but the thyroid problems. I dont have problems with that.  I am not as active as she is and no camera's flashing in my face, but I have been tested for sleep apnea and do not have it.  Thank goodness.

Over the past three years, I have lost 125 pounds the old fashioned way - with no surgery.  It still is an everyday battle to keep it off.

So it does confuse me when you talk about Oprah most probably having sleep apnea.  She's gaining weight because she is putting too much food in her mouth and not exercising enough to burn off those extra calories.  If she had a thyroid problem all this time, she wouldn't have been able to lose a large amount of wieght and keep it off for years.  She has obviously changed her eating habits.  God Bless her...I know the struggle well.


Avatar universal
by stewill1, Jan 14, 2009
ha!  I wrote her a letter Jan 5th!! asking her to please check into having a sleep study... I firmly believe she has a sleep disorders... if she doesn't have sleep apnea, I'd lay money down that she has PLMs. Periodic limb movements ... it goes hand in hand with her throid issues... but more than likely she has both sleep apnea and leg movements disrupting her sleep.

Gloria Stewart

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by ChitChatNine, Jan 15, 2009
Hi, I'm one of the Community Leaders on the Thryoid Disorders Community where there is an amazing amount of information contained within our thyroid community as well as our health pages.  Thank you Dr. Park for mentioning our community in your blog.   Oprah and anybody who has thyroid issues/concerns/quesions is welcome to stop by our community and say hello.  

We have many veteran members, who have an array of thyroid issues, who are there to help answer thyroid questions and/or give advice as best as they can as it pertains to thyroid issues -- including hypothyroidism and its causes, treatment, complications, etc.   Hypothyrodism is often misdiagnosed when other issues such as Sleep Apnea are the root cause as Dr. Parks has mentioned.

                     Thyroid Disorders Community:

                      Dr. Lupo's (Endocrinologist) Expert Forum:

                      MedHelp's Thyroid Tracker is a wonderful way to track your thyroid symptoms and medications
                      MedHelp's Sleep Tracker:

CoCL Thyroid
1/07 partial thyroidectomy

393685 tn?1425812522
by stella5349, Jan 15, 2009
Whatever R Glass.

You don't know what a thyroid issue and hormonal imbalance can do to a person. BTW - Ask the UK's and Aussie's suffering the same way what they are doing. They are having major issues too.

To clarify Oprah's swing in weight - she was HYPER thyroid ( Graves)  in the years she lost a ton of weight  ( ME TOO ) - Public knowledge. If you know about thryoid disease as I do when I was symptomatic with Graves - most patients will lose a ton of weight first - their thyroid will burn out either naturally as her's did ( she's not cured people) or doctors medically induce hypothyroidism with RAI or surgery to remove the gland. ( As I did) Then you are hypothyroid. The autoimmune antibodies NEVER go away - you are with them for life but treatment changes with each level of the disease along with tweeking meds to maintain proper health.

BTW - weight was FAR from the only problem Oprah and I  and a ton of others deal with when Graves is attacking and hypothyroid kicks in.  As any patients and knowledgeable professionals know when dealing with thyroid disorders. ( BTW again, Dr Parks I think you are right on with alot of your journals- Thanks :)  )

I think in watching her -  especially within this week and being a patient myself - I can see things with Oprah's appearence that others don't even reconize.  Her eyes are very swollen - she has the typical swollen appearence that a hypothyroid person has. Dark circles laid low under the eye - maybe a biotin defc. found in many hypo's Could it be sleep - Sure - do you know what one of the major symptoms are with hypothyroid is ??? - IMSOMNIA-

Read the board here at MH.  The darkening of her upper lip. Her eyebrows being thin - Her hands being coarse and wrinkle- ly - and her moon face of definate water retention especially in her lower chin area. ALL major symptoms of the condition people.

She was in denial of her condition needing medication and certain diet changes and supplements to stabilize her hormone imbalance to improve her health.  She is a very active person so she will be tired - but the lack of sleep from working 15 hrs - is MUCH DIFFERENT than being ill with a disease/condition that causes poor sleep too.

There's where you need to  STOP anyalizing sleep being the problem and move forward on WHY sleep is an issue.

If anyone here tuned into the webcast Dr Oz and her had Tuesday night - you would realize there are many factors that effect sleep. I think Dr Park is right to anaylize the issues of her sleep instead of cramming a pill down her throat to get some.

Unfortunately Dr. Park - I need to make a correction on your statement. Oprah is in denial she has thyroid issues any longer - at least she did think she was cured until she was corrected by Dr Oz.

Dr. Oz on Tuesday's show clearly informed her she is ill with an auotimmune disease and will never be cured. Yet he used the analogy of "Her thyroid being at peace right now". In leman's terms he stated to her that her antibody level is at a low and probably in remission at the present time. She is not suffering symptoms ( per say) except a bit of fatigue and sleep disturbances which she thinks she can solve by changing a few bad things that she re - cycled into again.

Will those antibodies rage out of control again.???....... Most likely. and she was clearly told medication may be needed again to stabilize her in the future if this happens. Hopefully her doctors will get her on one that works best for her too.

NOW if we ALL stopped cramming food into our mouths as R Glass says - Yes weight loss will help us ALL by GOD - but eating 100 calories for some whether exercise is done or not  -------- IS DIFFERENT for EVERY INDIVIDUAL.

I have to be particularly careful  ( next to none of this ) consuming sugar and any flour products whether whole grain or not. ( Insulin resistance found in hypos)  I NEED to take probiotics and digestive enzymes to help maintain my balance inside because of MY BODY slowing down it's functions due to the disease. ( IBS acid reflex found in hypos)  I HAVE to take extra supplements (most do not need) because MY body as a hypothyroid person can not absorb and metobolize it as someone who has a quicker response than mine is.

Gee my system could tolerate a Thanksgiving meal 3 x's a day  ( and I ate that ) and lost 5 pounds a week when I was at my peek of Grave's - but now I look at a salad with dressing and I gain two.

Hmmmmmm -- it's NOT all eating and exercising here at all.

If you want more information on really how to learn about the hormonal connection and very common symptoms that drag us down whether hypothyroid or not  - Take Dr. Parks advice and get a sleep test - but also tune into the Thursday show on Oprah today. A live discussion will take place on the Thyroid Board at 7pm ( Central time ) about what was featured.

Dr. Parks,

We would love to have you join in on that discussion - If you can visit tonight - please PM me if possible.  

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by stella5349, Jan 15, 2009
It was meant to say INsomnia - I apologize.

Co Leader Thyroid/ Adrenal Support forums
Graves2003/RAI2004/ Hypothyroidism

Avatar universal
by Steven Y Park, MDBlank, Jan 15, 2009
As long as my wife doesn't go into labor, I'll try to make it tonight.

As you can see from my original post, the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism and obstructive sleep apnea overlap significantly. It's the classic chicken or the egg question. Ultimately, one can aggravate the other and it ends up being a vicious cycle, so both have to be taken care of simultaneously. Maybe she didn't start off with obstructive sleep apnea, but with her significant weigh gain, she's definitely more at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

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by Cindy, Jan 15, 2009
Thank you so much - we hope you are able to join tonight's chat!

Congratulations on the new baby!!  We hope your wife is doing well and can't wait to hear all about the new arrival!

Cindy Thompson

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by ChitChatNine, Jan 15, 2009

Thank you Dr. Park!  

We look forward to seeing you on the special Thyroid "Live Chat" thread tonight which starts at  8:00PM  E.S.T.

We'll post a link to the thread closer to that time, as we look forward to seeing you and any MedHelp members who have thryoid questions stop by to join the "live chat" special event thread discussion.

Congratulations on the new baby on-the-way - how exciting!

Co-CL Thyroid
1/07 Partial Thyroidectomy; 2 papillary microcarcinomas
Synthroid 75mcgs; TSH 1.3

393685 tn?1425812522
by stella5349, Jan 15, 2009
Hi Dr. Park

and THANK YOU for accepting our invitation to Live Chat tonight!!

I know it's pending on your wife and the new baby ( congrats) but the boards are already humming about you coming on board LIVE.

See this reference for details -


otherwise we can't wait for you to be with us on the thyroid community.

Very exciting........... this is HUGE for Thyroid Awareness this Month!

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by R Glass, Jan 15, 2009
I enjoy watching documentaries on The Discovery Channel about Tribal Clans that still live primitive like their ancestors. I have noticed that none are over weight nor are they starving. Does this mean that they are immune to Thyroid conditions, Hormonal Imbalance, and Sleep Apnea or is it because they do not over eat and get plenty exercises. I am over weight and except the fact that it is my fault like most (not all) of us should.

Stella, it is a shame that you cannot handle opposing opinions very well.

Avatar universal
by Steven Y Park, MDBlank, Jan 15, 2009
In my book, Sleep, Interrupted: A physician reveals the #1 reason why so many of us are sick and tired, I talk about a dentist that traveled the world in the 1930s with his wife who was a nurse, looking at indigenous cultures that ate completely off the land. What he noticed was that as long as they ate natively, their teeth were perfectly aligned, with wide jaws and found essentially no cavities. But years later, as they slowly started to adopt Western diets (processed foods and refined sugars), their children's teeth became more crowded, had more cavities and were more prone to infectious diseases. This occurred not only in third world areas like South America, and Africa, but also in the Swiss Alps and an island off Scotland. Dr. Weston Price's book is a classic in the nutritional and holistic fields.

I mention another interesting theory by another dentist (Dr. Brian Palmer) who proposed that bottle-feeding (a Western, modern phenomenon) causes malocclusion and dental crowding. Narrowing of the jaw causes less room for the tongue to sit in, and when on your back, due to gravity, the tongue falls back. When you go into deep sleep, due to muscle relaxation, you're more likely to obstruct and wake up. This is why many people with sleep-breathing problems can't sleep on their backs.

In a nutshell, sleep-breathing problems cause a low-grade stress response so that cortisol and the sympathetic nervous system is elevated. This leads to suppression of other hormones, including thyroid and reproductive hormones. In many cases treating an underactive thyroid condition gets the person to a certain level where they can take over from there, but in other cases, since you're not treating what's actually causing the suppression, the labs may look normal, but the patient doesn't feel better. This internal physiologic stress can be aggravated by any external stresses (psychological, emotional or physical).

No one medical condition exists in a vacuum. Yes, there are millions of men and women who should get their thyroid conditions treated properly, but there will always be others with legitimate thyroid conditions that require additional interventions.

I have to admit, once you get passionate about something, everything starts to look like a nail to your hammer. I'm guilty of this to some degree as well. That's why you have to look at the whole person, and address all the other possible issues that can cause or aggravate the initial problem. When I treat sleep apnea patients, I also look at their life stresses, diets, hormonal status, job situations, etc.


168348 tn?1379357075
by ChitChatNine, Jan 15, 2009
R Glass, please stop by thyroid disorders & weight loss and dieting and do some searches about obesity, weight gain and thyroid .. it's a huge subject and one that even when changes of lifestyle occur to cognitively combat the obesity, the obesity in some still remains who have thyroid conditions -- and/or are on thyroid medicines.   I

Back in the days of the documentaries spoken about, there were no thyroid medicines out there, either, which one has to wonder if thyroid medicine is a major contributor to many with obesity issues who take thyroid meds ??

Of course, there are always some who soley blame their obesity on thyroid conditions, when lifestyle changes may prove beneficial.

Just my 2 cents.

586424 tn?1232176659
by KD9ER, Jan 15, 2009
R Glass-- You may be right...your weight problem is just that...a weight problem.  It's simple.  Easy to understand.  And probably manageable.  Unfortunately, Stella made some great points that there are more possibilities for obesity than just being fat.  Stella has a long history of thyroid problems.  She did mention she was skinny at one point...very skinny as she was severely HYPERthyroid with Graves Disease.  The reason the thyroid issues have names like Graves Disease and Hashimoto's Disease is because they are and forever will be a disease.  It's not made up.  It's proven by labs.  Stella was healthy before her thyroid rocked her world.  After her thyroid came into the picture her weight took the brunt of the battle...as it does with most thyroid patients.  We're not saying ALL of America's Obesity is due to the thyroid.  What we are saying is it needs to be ruled out or in.  It's like a diabetic---weight problems are a side effect of unmanaged or misdiagnosed diabetes.  This is known.  It's not made up.  Just because there are fat people in the world does not mean there is always a medical reason to explain them.  I don't believe Stella was arguing you on that.  She was simply trying to show you that the original post was based on Thyroid and Sleep Disorders and these are valid diseases with weight issues as a side effect.  

Tribal Clans are a bit of an extreme comparison.  See Tribal Clans are often very isolated.  Their gene pool is a lot smaller than say America's or Great Britan's, or China's.  So when you take that into account there is less of a chance they will experience Thyroid issues.  Stella also pointed out avoiding certain foods that aggrivate Hypothyroidism makes a difference.  That is easier to do in a Tribal setting than in America.  I think we can all agree that Tribal Clans are not eating Whole Wheat Bread, Sugar Cookies, or drinking Soda.  So yes---your argument has some validity to it, but it isn't fair to make the comparison of a secluded Tribal Clan to that of the technology driven world powers.


168348 tn?1379357075
by ChitChatNine, Jan 15, 2009
Personally, having unexpectedly (and quite suddenly) entered the thryoid arena of health issues myself only in '07, I didn't know that sleep apnea can be the underlying cause of thyroid conditions!  

Dr. Park's blog has opened up a wonderful new dimension to my answering posts on a daily basis, by educating the members to sleep apnea as something to further explore with their doctor.

I live in the tri-state area ... glad to know Dr. Park is so close to where I reside and will certainly recommend him to anybody I know who he may be able to help.

co-cl thyroid

586424 tn?1232176659
by KD9ER, Jan 15, 2009
Dr. Parks,

Thank you for stepping up and be willing to answer some questions for our community.  I have recently started reading your BLOGs and you make some wonderful points.  Please keep posting.  

Thank you again.  And Congratulations on your little one---whenever he or she may arrive.  :)


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by stella5349, Jan 15, 2009
Thank you KD9ER.

Thank you :)

and hope to see alot of great posts on the Chat tonight. I should have that up and going soon on thyroid.

The chat will begin around 7PM my time ( Central) I planned on about one hour for Dr. Park - he was so gracious to offer his time to us. Thank you to you too Dr. Park.

I started a question list already and hope to get some really great feedback from everyone!

Stop by everyone.

168348 tn?1379357075
by ChitChatNine, Jan 15, 2009
Hello All,

Here is the link to our Live Chat on Thyroid - Come on Over  - It started just a few mins ago at 8:00PM EST!



393685 tn?1425812522
by stella5349, Jan 15, 2009
Dr. Park

Here is the link to take you directly to the chat.


393685 tn?1425812522
by stella5349, Jan 16, 2009
I'd like to address the Tribal Clan comment.

These "clans" as stated  - most are segregated South if the equator correct? If you do the research on people living where natural sunlight is prominant - more than in the northern half of the world, people who do live in the lower half ARE less prone to endocrine disorders generally. There diets are simple and they are more phyisical in the warm weather.

There is documented research that Vit D - which sun light gives us naturally - will protect the human body from autoimmune endocrine disorders. Putting our American diets in prospectives - living in winter ( no sun)  for months  - less activity during those months -   Free radicals especially in the cold- and the stress we Western society individuals have -  are the front runners to getting these type of illness.

Most northerners are Vit D defecient to some degree. If you research Vit D it amazes me on how important this is for us and it comes from the sun for the most part.

I believe things like this start the cycle of finding communities sick with disease. Something - somewhere lacks and then the process starts with illness.

I have been called alot of things since my illness came on with thyroid disease - NOT listening to opposing opinions is a ignorant first. If I wouldn't have ventured off to some degree from conventional medicine and "listened" to "opposing" things - I would still be lethargic - near or by now  in a myxedema coma ( sereve underactive thyroid coma) or maybe dead for sure.  I was near a stroke because of the Grave's disease in the beginning too and titered on trust that I would be "cured" as I was told too.

So respectfully R Glass - some individuals as I - had to fight with every ounce I had while deathly ill - to uncover the "not so talked about - opposing" treatments of thyroid disease in order to get my life back. Many doctors walked away from me because most traditional medicine failed  and I was just "there " but living stopped and was shutting down very quickly. Not sleeping more than 2 hrs a night for nearly 3 yrs really takes a toll on your health when a disease like this hits as hard as it did me.

It is a great source of information to provide support for people when all tests prove negative of "WHY" weight and sleep distrubances are issues and it is simply a "diet and exercise" problem - but when you go and frankly look at a heavy person on the street or TV and sterotype them as just fat and lazy and they need to get out an exercise more without knowing the complex hormonal issues that may be causing this appearance that is ignorant rude and mean. Especially when you boldly challenge an individual like me who went from a body builder in her twenties and thirties to nothing after 38 yrs old.

206807 tn?1331936184
by R Glass, Jan 16, 2009
“These "clans" as stated  - most are segregated South if the equator correct?”
Not quite.
Even though you do bring out some good theories, I read Alaskans have a lower rate than average. Granted I am no expert in this field I am only quoting what I read.
I have sympathy and my heart goes out to all of you that “actually” have this disorder. I went through a 6month treatment for HCV and it took 7 months to recover from the treatment so, I understand suffering.
The problem I have is with people looking for excuses to justify their obesity. I could look up the symptoms of Menopause and convince myself I have it. If a person has not been officially diagnosed with this disorder either enjoy the Twinkie or put it down but please quit looking for excuses to justify it. Obesity runs in my family so some of my problem could be genetics. This does not justify my weight problem. It just means the same rules may not apply to me as they do others and I have to work harder to keep my weight down or accept the fact I am

168348 tn?1379357075
by ChitChatNine, Jan 17, 2009
Thank you Dr. Park for coming onto the thyroid community last night for our live webcast on Thyroid and Sleep Disorders.  We all learned so much!

We've added that "chat" to Thyroid's Health Pages .. here's the link for anybody to reference.  There's so much info contained in the thread, we want to reference people to this link for many years to come!


co-cl thyroid

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