June 28, 2017
The news of Carrie Fisher’s cause of death has thrust sleep apnea into the national consciousness again, or at least it should have. While media outlets largely focused on the fact that drugs were found in Fisher’s system, the medical examiner’s report actually noted that sleep apnea and heart disease were major contributing factors in her death.
Carrie Fisher is far from the only celebrity or well-known person to suffer from the condition. While Fisher’s story may be considered more of a cautionary tale, some celebrities are using their position to increase awareness of the prevalence of sleep apnea, and its associated health complications and risks, in the public sphere.
Other famous people who have or had sleep apnea:
Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead’s lead guitarist, passed away of a heart attack in 1995. Garcia also suffered from sleep apnea, and his doctors consider the sleep disorder to have played a significant role in his death.
Justice Antonin Scalia
Justice Antonin Scalia passed away while on vacation in Texas in February 2016. It was well-known that he suffered from sleep apnea, in addition to other serious health concerns such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Justice Scalia managed his sleep apnea with the use of a CPAP machine; however, on the night of his death, his CPAP was on the nightstand next to him, unplugged and unused.
While the CPAP can be a great treatment option, many people are unable or unwilling to tolerate the machine, rendering it ineffective. Alternative treatment options, such as oral devices, may be better suited for some people. After all, the best treatment is the one we actually use!
As is so often the case, persistent snoring is a tell-tale symptom of sleep apnea, just ask basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal. After years of dealing with her husband’s snoring, Shaq’s wife finally convinced him to undergo a sleep study, which ultimately revealed that he suffered from sleep apnea.
Since his diagnosis, Shaq has become an advocate working to raise awareness about sleep apnea. In a video created by Harvard Medical School, he discusses his own sleep apnea journey and the importance of getting tested and treated.
Former NFL wide receiver Roy Green’s sleep apnea story, while once grim, has helped spark a greater movement to bring awareness to the prevalence of sleep apnea. Prior to being diagnosed with sleep apnea, Green suffered two heart attacks and two strokes that were largely attributed to the sleep disorder.
Since beginning treatment, Green has seen his health significantly improve. In an effort to help others, he has teamed up with the David Gergen and the Pro Player Health Alliance, an organization of former professional athletes who travel the country spreading awareness about sleep apnea.