Updated June 2022
Even for long-time fans of The Office, this reference to sleep apnea most likely went unnoticed. But for CPAP users, this subtle plug immediately rang through the community.
In the show's 4th season (Episode 7, Money), Dwight and Angela are going through a breakup. Dwight is begrudgingly returning her personal items in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot. Among multiple cardigan sweaters is "one sleep apnea mask". Since the episode aired in 2007, the device pictured appears to be a ResMed S8. That product's equivalent in today's market is the ResMed AirSense™ 11.
Normalizing Sleep Apnea
What makes this even more interesting is that Angela self-proclaims in the show to be about 5'2" and weigh just 82 lbs. The stigma for this sleep disorder is that individuals are typically heavy set, older males who snore. Angela is quite the opposite to say the least.
While the show is obviously fictional, it shouldn't come as a shock that Angela suffers from sleep apnea since there are two types of the disorder.
Types of Sleep Apnea Treatments
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, occurs when the throat airway is completely or partially blocked as you breathe during sleep. The causes for an obstructed airway are many, but the result is the same: temporary, repeated pauses or slowing of the breath. This typically happens when the muscles near the airways become relaxed to a point where they create a physical blockage. Since this is unlikely due to Angela's stick-figure build, she's most likely suffering from the second type of sleep apnea.
Since OSA is the much more common form of sleep apnea, it’s usually referred to as “sleep apnea.” The terms OSA, sleep apnea, and Obstructive Sleep Apnea are used interchangeably; when we say “sleep apnea,” we’re specifically referring to OSA.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea, or CSA, is a bit different. It's when the brain transmits incorrect signals to muscles that control breathing. So, the body briefly stops or slows its breathing. Unlike OSA, this has nothing to do with body type, gender or lifestyle. For a full overview of these two types, check out the full article here.
From the Office Ladies Podcast
In the popular podcast, Office Ladies, former cast members Jenna Fisher and Angela Kinsey reveal that there was no underlying meaning to this reference. They noted that this was most likely just to give the writers a chuckle. To listen to the podcast episode, follow this link and skip to 29:08.
The Viewers' Reactions
CPAP using fans of the Office were comforted in knowing they aren't the only ones treating sleep apnea. CPAP users shouldn't hold any shame as millions suffer from the same disorder. One watcher said it best in a post on the popular fan forum, Reddit:
Angela is not usually a fan's favorite character. Her snarky comments, disapproving looks, and uptight demeanor are more laughable than are relatable. But knowing what we know now, Angela just might be alright in our book. Even if we aren't cat people.