Posted on Thursday, March 10th, 2022 at 4:59 pm    

In late December 2016, after completing production for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, beloved actress Carrie Fisher (best known for her role as Princess Leia) suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles and later died.

The Los Angeles County Coroner later determined Carrie Fisher’s official cause of death to be “sleep apnea and other factors.” Sleep apnea is a potentially severe sleep disorder that occurs when a person stops breathing while sleeping, sometimes for just a few seconds and sometimes for minutes. It can cause snoring, daytime fatigue, nightmares, insomnia, headaches, mood swings, irritability, and other symptoms.

Tragically, as in the case of Carrie Fisher, sleep apnea can also be deadly. Other celebrities that died due to sleep apnea-related complications include famous Indian singer Bappi Lahiri, who suffered from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and Amanda Peterson, who starred in the 1987 romantic comedy Can’t Buy Me Love. Her father stated that she had sleep apnea and that her condition may have contributed to her death.

Can Sleep Apnea Really Be Deadly?

Sleep apnea patients don’t always pass away from sleep apnea itself, that is, from a lack of oxygen while sleeping. Instead, the complications triggered by untreated sleep apnea can eventually result in death, as they did in Fisher’s case.

Numerous studies, including a study published in Sleep Journal, have shown that untreated sleep breathing disorders like sleep apnea carry a high mortality risk no matter the patient’s age, biological sex, and body mass index (BMI).

Another study, which examined 385 men with mild to severe sleep apnea over an eight-year period, found that male patients with a sleep apnea index (AI) of more than 20, which would indicate severe sleep apnea, had a much higher mortality rate than those with mild to moderate apnea. Participants with an AI of greater than 20 were 33 percent more likely to die during the study due to their condition than participants with an AI of less than 20.

Treating Sleep Apnea

While many individuals with sleep apnea have turned to CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines, which force oxygen into a person’s lungs by supplying a constant stream of air through a hose and mask, these devices come with severe health risks. CPAP manufacturer Philips has issued a recall of their devices due to problems with the CPAP’s sound abatement foam, which can disintegrate over time, causing dangerous foam particles to flow into the patient’s airway.

Contact Silent Night Therapy

At Silent Night Therapy, we offer an alternative solution to patients struggling with sleep apnea. Our practice was one of the first on Long Island to recommend and treat patients using Oral Sleep Appliances instead of CPAP machines. Oral Sleep Appliances resemble a mouthguard and are far less intrusive than CPAP machines. These devices work by slightly shifting the jaw and opening the air passages, allowing for oxygen to pass safely and comfortably into a patient’s lungs while they sleep.

If you have sleep apnea, it is vital to treat your condition before dangerous complications arise. Call us or reach out to us online to schedule an appointment with Dr. Clifford Brown to discuss how an OSA might be able to help with your sleep apnea.