NFL star Ryan Jensen says a sleep apnea diagnosis 'saved my career'

The football star opens up about how before his diagnosis, he would spend nine hours in bed but get only 90 minutes of sleep.
4:12 | 09/08/17

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Transcript for NFL star Ryan Jensen says a sleep apnea diagnosis 'saved my career'
We turn to a major wake-up call to help save an NFL player's life and his career and finally discovered he has sleep apnea, a disorder that affects millions of Americans and now working a treatment that helped him get back on the field and T.J. Went one-on-one, not on the feel but one-on-one with him about sleep apnea. Think about this. This guy was off the team, right, and now he's moved to being an NFL star. So, what did he change his diet? His training, equipment. Nope, he just needed sleep for this guy and millions of other folks, sleep apnea is more than loud snoring and cost you a whole lot more than sleepless nights. Ryan Jensen is one of the biggest, baddest dudes in the NFL. Jensen making his first career start. Reporter: A 6'4", 30-pound offensive lineman for the Baltimore ravens but three years ago his future was in doubt after he was cut from the team. I lost weight and a bunch of strength and I wasn't playing -- I was getting beat a lot. Reporter: Around that time his parents noticed a change in his behavior. My dad called me and goes, hey, what's up? I'm like, what do you mean. He said you're not acting like yourself. We got back from different and went to the hotel and your mom broke down crying. You weren't being my son. Reporter: What did that do to you to hear you were that nasty to your mom? It broke me down. Reporter: He didn't know what was happening but his dad suspected. And suggested his son get tested for sleep apnea, a disorder in which a person frequently stops breathing during sleep. I'd go to bed at 9:00, 9:30. Be asleep by 10 and wake up and I'd feel like I got hit in the face with a sledgehammer. What were the complaints? She would smack me. Wake up, you're not breathing and would do it because she was scared for me because I would stop breathing for an extended period of time. Reporter: He took a study and his doctors told him he was only getting about 90 minutes of sleep total. He was waking up about 15 times an hour. And imagine that happening every hour of your sleep every night. Reporter: Untreated sleep apnea can lead to heart attract, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity and other health problems. An estimated 22 million Americans suffer from it and the larger you are, the larger the risk which makes NFL players more vulnerable. In a study published in "The new England journal of medicine." Nearly one in seven players affected. After Ryan's diagnosis he started using a cpap machine for treatment. It forces air into his mouth to keep his airways open which means a mask over his nose and mouth every night. But no more waking up. A few nights changed everything. Changed everything. Reporter: After one month his weight went up, strength was back and returned to the team and this season he's poised to be the starter center for the ravens. I think if I wouldn't have gotten diagnosed and caught it within time I wouldn't be in the NFL anymore. You know, saved my career. Reporter: All right, I got show and tell today. Guys. Thank the sleep center for letting us borrow this. All you have to do is put it on and go to sleep and it will measure your heart rate, breathing, the oxygen levels. This is necessary, folks, if you think you have possibly sleep apnea. We talk about this as loud snoring and not getting rest. This is absolutely life-threatening and talk about big guys but skinny folks can have it as well. You know who else is susceptible. Single folks because you're not sleeping next to someone who is telling you, your pattern is off. As crazy as that sounds, if you are out there, if you're just -- Why you're so tire. If you been asleep for ten hours and wake up and feel like you've been hit by a Mac truck, you need to get tested? And you need to get in a relationship. We all know that is better for your health. It is. It is. But really, folk, take it seriously. Life-threatening. Thank you so much, T.J.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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