Late last year, we speculated that sleep apnea may have contributed to the death of Carrie Fisher. This week, the coroner’s report confirmed that sleep apnea played a role in her death, although the official cause of death was listed as “undetermined.”
A Diversity of Factors
The Los Angeles County coroner’s office reported many factors in Fisher’s death. Fisher, best known for her role as General Leia Organa (originally Princess Leia) was very open about her drug use. And this played a role in Fisher’s death, according to the coroner’s report. Drug use can contribute to sleep apnea. But it can also be an effect of sleep apnea. A recent study of college athletes showed that sleep disturbances made them more likely to use substances, including illegal drugs.
In addition, the coroner’s report talks about heart disease. Heart disease is a common effect of sleep apnea—as much as 90% of people getting treatment for heart disease have sleep apnea.
And, of course, the report mentions that sleep apnea contributed to Fisher’s death.
Sleep Apnea Is a Killer
The loss of Carrie Fisher was certainly a blow to her legions of fans. In addition to her incredible work as an actress, she had earned the respect of many through her one-woman show and, especially, her writing, which took on the hard issues of her life with humor and aplomb.
It is sad that sleep apnea took her away from us when she had so much more to contribute.
Star Wars fans, of course, are concerned about the impact her death will have on the series. Lucasfilm has already stated that–although they created a digital Leia for Rogue One–they will not digitally recreate the character for later movies. Presumably this means that she’s already shot enough footage to conclude her arc in the next movie. Still, the humor that she brought to the production as an observer and commentator will be missed, as will her future books.
But if there is a bright side to this tragedy, it’s that more people are becoming aware of the dangers of sleep apnea. It’s important to know that sleep apnea is a killer. If you suspect sleep apnea, it’s important to get tested.
And if you have sleep apnea, it’s important to get treated. Remember: treatment you don’t use is as bad as no treatment, so if you can’t adapt to CPAP, consider an alternative like oral appliance therapy.