When Carrie Fisher died in December of 2016, many saw it as the final and lowest blow of a year that took beloved celebrity after beloved celebrity, including Prince, David Bowie, and George Michael.
Fisher was not only Princess Leia of 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, a vibrant young star who charmed the world, but also General Leia Organa of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a mature and weathered version of the character Star Wars fans knew and loved. She had recently come back into the public eye with her reprised role as everyone’s favorite spunky space princess, and for many fans, her loss so soon after her reappearance was particularly devastating.
This week, approximately six months after her death, the results were released of the Los Angeles County coroner’s report, and Carrie Fisher fans everywhere learned about the final blows to the aging actress’s health. Among concerns over drugs and fatty tissue buildup in Fisher’s arteries, the blame was pinned primarily on one health problem: Sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea: An Underestimated Killer
Despite the fact that sleep apnea kills people all over the world due to increased risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart failure, among other risks, it’s surprisingly unknown as a deadly disease. In fact, many people still think of snoring, one of the hallmark symptoms of sleep apnea, as nothing more than an embarrassing habit.
And the scariest part? Most people who suffer some sleep apnea don’t know that they have it. In fact, some estimates suggest that more than 80% of people with sleep apnea are undiagnosed. Undiagnosed, unfortunately, mean untreated — and while treatment can reduce those deadly risks, those with untreated sleep apnea are likely to die much younger than those without the sleep disorder.
Do You Have Sleep Apnea?
The main reason that so many people go undiagnosed is that sleep apnea can be hard to spot and easy to write off. The most noticeable symptom is snoring, but unless a family member or partner witnesses the snoring and brings it up, it’s easy to literally sleep through your symptoms and fail to notice them.
Other symptoms of sleep apnea, such as waking up feeling unrested, daytime fatigue, or difficulty focusing or remembering, are things that we all experience sometimes for various reasons. Most people, if they wake up feeling tired, don’t assume they have a sleep disorder — particularly since our culture loves to glorify and normalize being busy and tired all the time.
So how can you figure out if you have sleep apnea? If you experience more than a few of the symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s important to get checked out by a professional. Your doctor or an experienced sleep dentist can recommend a sleep study if they believe your symptoms point to sleep apnea. Once you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, you can find the best treatment for you.
Carrie Fisher’s death is a tragic one, but with any luck, this high profile case of sleep apnea will help some undiagnosed sufferers to get treatment for this deadly disease. If you think you may have sleep apnea, call us at