Out of Breath

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


A billion sufferers and only one treatment. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the medical field’s forgotten disease. How and why did this happen?


Nearly one billion people suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea. A forty year old device is the only widespread treatment option. Why do medical students get minimal training and fewer doctors enter the field? This film will explore personal stories of lives shattered and expert testimony on the reasons professionals ignore this disease.


I woke up with my wife screaming and baby daughter wailing. I was within inches of slamming into the back of a stalled car while traveling at 60 miles an hour on the Westside Highway in New York City… in the middle of the day. I had fallen asleep. I wasn’t drinking or taking drugs, I hadn’t stayed out all night. I was suffering from the effects of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

For years, I had been misdiagnosed. It was a thyroid problem. No, it was a heart issue. Then it wasn’t either of those. Whatever was happening to me was affecting my work, my marriage, my ability to be a father…in short, my entire life. It took me 40 years to find a cure. Why?

 My story is not unusual. It happens every day, often with deadly consequences. My wife, daughter and I are three of the lucky few. We survived. Many don’t.”

                                 George T. Nierenberg, Director/Producer, Out of Breath

Nearly one billion adults and children worldwide suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a disease that causes one to stop breathing for short periods while sleeping. Yes, nearly one in seven people. And nearly 80 percent of moderate to severe OSA cases go undiagnosed. The disease and one of its signs, loud snoring, is handled to great comedic effect in comedy routines, but there’s nothing funny about the real-world effects of this condition. It is not hyperbole but mere fact that OSA causes deaths, triggers additional diseases and conditions, ruins the quality of life for millions, destroys businesses and professional lives and shatters marriages. Yet each year fewer doctors enter the field. In fact, medical students get only four hours of training on the disease over their four years of medical school. But why? The answer is as frustrating as it is shocking. Out of Breath will investigate the devastating impact of the public health care epidemic that is OSA and how the medical community has responded to dealing with this disease as a public health epidemic, as well as the reasons behind the lack of medical innovations to cure this disease.

George T. Nierenberg, an award-winning documentary film director/producer has teamed up with a preeminent team of advisors led by Dr. John Remmers, a world-renowned expert in the field of snoring and OSA, which also includes such experts such as Dr. Colin Sullivan, inventor of the CPAP; Dr. Charles Czeisler, head of Sleep Matters Initiative and Mark Rosekind, former administrator of the National Traffic Safety Administration to create a documentary film that explores the reasons there has been only limited innovation in treatment of this disease since it’s discovery in 1965. Known for his ability to tell a story both intimate and epic in its scope, Nierenberg provides an emotionally engaging, arresting and frank look into the personal stories of the struggles of OSA patients, their families, communities and OSA’s impact on society.

Shot over a period of a year, the film will live with our characters as we explore deeply personal stories such as:

•       a family dealing with the daily struggles and disruption of living with a father, mother or child with OSA symptoms, diagnosis and treatment;

•       a child with OSA who has been misdiagnosed with ADHD and the impact this has had on his education and his family;

•       a professional athlete whose performance is impacted by OSA;

•       A truck driver who is confronted with not being able to drive because of his difficulty with staying awake;

•       a soldier dealing with the effects of OSA in combat and the impact it has on his platoon.

As well as life-shattering events such as:

•       the 2016 commuter train crash at the Hoboken Terminal that killed one, injured 110 and caused $6 million in damages;

•       a life lost from the long-term effects of untreated OSA - heart disease, diabetes, stroke, depression, Alzheimers.

Additionally, the film will interview pre-eminent sleep experts, such as the inventor of the CPAP machine (the only officially recognized treatment for OSA), a former National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator, and others in the field of sleep and fatigue to determine why so little attention or money has been spent on this affliction despite its growing effects on so many each year. 

The surprising history of Obstructive Sleep Apnea will unfold throughout the film. The disease was identified in 1965. It was treated with a tracheotomy until the invention of the CPAP in 1981. The CPAP is a mask, used nightly, which covers the nose and delivers continuous air pressure, allowing sufferers of OSA to breathe freely. This treatment was groundbreaking. It has saved and continues to save countless lives, but not everyone finds it an acceptable treatment. Studies show that only 50% of OSA patients use the CPAP on a regular basis. Dental appliances, that reposition the jaw to allow more air, have been gaining some traction with OSA patients but the medical is reluctant to embrace them. Since its inception, OSA has been considered a one diagnosis, one treatment disease by the medical community. When you consider all the advances in modern medicine, the lack of attention to any such advances in OSA is truly astounding.

The time has come to wake up the public and the sleep industry with a heart-grabbing and thorough look at OSA through the eyes of the patients that have struggled with it for years and the doctors who are at the center of the crisis that surrounds it. 

Distribution and Outreach Strategy:

Distribution: Our initial distribution will be having the film play at film festivals worldwide. This will be followed by a limited theatrical release. Once this is complete, our intention is to have the film broadcast, both in the United States and internationally, and available for streaming. 

Outreach Campaign: Upon completion of the film, our goal is to generate significant media coverage to elevate the public profile of the film and the public health issues the film raises.

Additionally, there will be community screenings with partnering organizations to make people aware of the symptoms of OSA so they can seek the proper treatment, promote knowledgeable and empathetic care, push for additional research and alternative treatments for OSA within the medical and dental professions, inspire new scientists and funders to join the field, and gain mass and strategic worldwide recognition of OSA as a public health epidemic.

We hope that you will join us in shining a spotlight on this devastating disease. Your endorsement and monetary support will help create an engaging, provocative and entertaining broad-reach vehicle for expanding public awareness of OSA and public interest in treating more people and exploring new treatment options for this disease.



George T. Nierenberg - Director / Producer

GEORGE T. NIERENBERG is an acclaimed Director/Producer whose career has spanned the worlds of independent features, network, and cable television. His award-winning film, Say Amen, Somebody (originally released theatrically by United Artist Classics) was celebrated at major film festivals including Telluride, New York, Toronto, London, and Cannes. It was named “One of the Ten Best Films of The Year” by People Magazine, Siskel and Ebert and Rolling Stone, among others. His Emmy-winning film No Maps on My Taps received a theatrical release before airing on PBS, cable and international television. Mr. Nierenberg’s Emmy nominated That Rhythm, Those Blues opened at the Telluride Film before airing on The American Experience. He has produced, directed and developed projects for CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, AMC, Bravo, Nickelodeon, Sony BMG and National Geographic Explorer. Nierenberg film’s Say Amen, Somebody and No Maps on My Taps are currently being re-released theatrically by Milestone Films. 



  • Dr. John Remmers
  • Dr. Colin Sullivan
  • Dr. Charles Czeisler 
  • Mark Rosekind, Ph.D.
  • Dr. David Rapoport
  • Dr. Girardin Jean-Louis
  • Dr. Azizi Seixas
  • Dr. Gilles Lavigne
  • Dr. Naresh Punjabi
  • Steve Carstensen, DDS
  • Dr. Barbara Phillips
  • LTC Phillip Neal, DMD


Connect With The Filmmakers:


The Gotham Film & Media Institute - Fiscal Sponsorship Program 2024
Nierenberg’s SAY AMEN,SOMEBODY & NO MAPS ON MY TAPS are currently being re-released theatrically


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