Several years ago, within a two week span, I had two people sitting next to me on airplanes comment that when I slept (I always sleep on airplanes), I stopped breathing and loudly gasped for breath. Both of them kindly suggested that I get checked for sleep apnea. Since my wife had also suggested it, I figured it was time to get it checked out. I had the sleep study done and was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. The only practical solution was the CPAP machine. Although it was annoying at first and I had to try several masks to find one that was comfortable, I eventually got used to it. I noticed immediately that I started having dreams again. I hadn't had them for years, because I evidently never slept deeply enough because of the apnea episodes. I was also less tired during the day because I got better sleep at night.
After a couple years with the machine, I finally decided to get serious about my weight. I wasn't obese and people wouldn't have called me "fat", but I was probably 25 pounds heavier than I needed to be. From the research I had done, overweight people are far more likely to have sleep apnea, but even though there were no guarantees, I figured I'd give it my best shot. I buckled down, watched my eating, got on a serious workout program and lost the weight. I went back to the sleep clinic for another sleep study. The doctor happily showed my the results of the two studies side-by-side. I was basically cured, as the apnea episodes were totally gone. I look better, feel better and got rid of the annoying machine. I still have the machine and it serves as a reminder of just one of the many reasons to stay in shape.
After the first sleep study, I did a lot of research on sleep apnea. You basically stop breathing until your brain and body wake up just enough to get you to breathe again. Even though your brain doesn't wake you completely, it wakes enough to disrupt the deep sleep you need. Untreated, it can cause more serious health problems and place stress on the heart. As the original post said, it seems like everyone has sleep apnea when it was unheard of 20 or 30 years ago, but obesity rates have been skyrocketing during that time too. If you are diagnosed with it, you most likely have a problem, but the cheap fix for many (including Frenchfry, it seems from his story) is to lose weight.