An article in the medical journal, Chest, reports that composer Johannes Brahms was overweight, stored fat primarily in his upper body, and made horrible sounds when he slept. These are signs of sleep apnea, a condition that causes a person to stop breathing for more than 30 seconds many times each night.
Brahms once remarked: “If there is anyone here I have not offended, I apologize.” Sleep apnea makes a person irritable. He died of pancreatic cancer, which is associated with diabetes and upper body obesity, common findings in sleep apnea. He never married probably because of the terrible sounds he made during sleep. Baritone George Henschel reported that Brahms’ snoring drove him from a room they shared on a concert tour. Brahms drank heavily and used to fall asleep in his theater box. His neck was so large that he couldn’t wear ties. He was commonly irritable and depressed, probably because of lack of oxygen to his brain, but he gave us the most famous lullaby in the world.
Chest, July 2000