Carrie Fisher’s Autopsy Reveals Sleep Apnea as a Cause of Death

What Women Need to Know About the Dangers of Sleep Apnea


(Phoenix, AZ) June 20, 2017 – Carrie Fisher’s autopsy report was released this week revealing sleep apnea, along with a cocktail of various drugs, as a cause of her death. It was also noted that Fisher suffered from atherosclerotic heart disease.

While Fisher’s drug use has been the focus of news reports, the dangers of sleep apnea should not be discounted. A study published in the Journal of Sleep in August 2016 revealed that people with severe, untreated sleep apnea died at a rate more than three times that of those without sleep apnea.

“Sleep apnea significantly increases the risk of sudden cardiac death in those with heart disease,” says Lauri Leadley president of Valley Sleep Center, and Clinical Sleep Educator.

“Sleep apnea causes you to stop breathing while you sleep!” says Leadley.

These episodes of not breathing can last from a few seconds to minutes.

Carrie Fisher, who passed away on December 27, 2016, experienced sleep apnea while she slept on the plane as she flew between London and Los Angeles four days earlier.

Most people with sleep apnea don’t know they have it unless a sleep partner tells them. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that as much as 26 percent of the US population has sleep apnea. While men are twice as likely as women to experience sleep apnea, only one-eighth of women who have sleep apnea get diagnosed leaving most women in danger of sudden and premature death.

The symptoms of sleep apnea in women are different than men and include:

  • Chronic snoring (light or heavy snoring is an indicator)
  • Gasping or choking after a pause in the snoring
  • Waking up often during the night to urinate
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Dry mouth or a sore throat when awakening
  • Trouble focusing, forgetfulness, irritability, depression
  • Morning headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Mood disturbances
  • Lack of energy
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Depression

Furthermore, women who have sleep apnea are more likely to experience the following; blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, adult asthma, and car accidents.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, treatment for sleep apnea includes

  • continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy,
  • dental appliances which reposition the lower jaw and tongue; upper airway surgery to remove tissue in the airway;
  • nasal expiratory positive airway pressure where a disposable valve covers the nostrils; and
  • treatment using hypoglossal nerve stimulation.

The National Sleep Foundation also says that certain lifestyle changes are effective in mitigating symptoms of sleep apnea including losing weight, stopping smoking and avoiding alcohol.

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, Leadley recommends setting up an appointment with a Board-Certified sleep physician.  They can assess your symptoms and recommend testing and treatment options that work for you.

About Valley Sleep Center: 

Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients.

Valley Sleep Center provides diagnostic testing for a multitude of sleep-related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems. Their physicians are Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists and are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. For more information, go to