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Sleep Apnea & Cardiac Arrest

Sleep apnea and heart failure are well-documented as a lethal combination. In 2016, Carrie Fisher (the actress who played the iconic Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies) suffered from cardiac arrest on an airplane. She was reportedly experiencing apneas (pauses in breath for longer than ten seconds) during the flight from London to Los Angeles in December 2016. When the plane landed, Fisher was unresponsive and eventually died. The coroner noted the cause of death as sleep apnea and cardiac arrest.

Other celebrities whose cause of death was sudden heart failure linked to sleep apnea include:

  • James Gandolfini (The Sopranos)
  • Regis Philbin (TV host from Lives from Regis and Kathie Lee and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire)
  • Actor John Candy
  • Justin Tennison (The Deadliest Catch)
  • Entertainer Harris Glenn Milstead (also known as Divine)
  • Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia
  • Singer-musician Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
  • President William Howard Taft
  • NFL player Reggie White
  • Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Reggie White, was twice named NFL Defensive Player of the year, is in the Football Hall of Fame, and was a WWE wrestler. Reggie White played multiple seasons of professional football and became a legend in the process. Sadly, he died in 2004 at the age of 43 due to a heart attack compounded by complications from sleep.


Regis Philbin was the original TV host of hugely popular Who Wants to be a Millionaire? He sought out treatment after years of sleep difficulties and keeping his wife awake at night with his snoring. He underwent a sleep study and discovered that he had Obstructive Sleep Apnea.


John Candy was a Canadian actor and comedian known mainly for his work in Hollywood films and had all the symptoms of OSA.


Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan and he was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 98 to 0. Justice Scalia was a champion of originalism, the theory of constitutional interpretation that seeks to apply the understanding of those who drafted and ratified the Constitution. His death on February 13, 2017 may have been due to sleep apnea.



Famous People Who have Sleep Apnea 


Rosie O’Donnell is an American comedian, actress, author and a vivacious television personality. She underwent a home sleep test and learned that she has sleep apnea, and just after one night of CPAP treatment, Rosie said she felt a life-changing

William Shatner is a Shakespearean trained actor, and he became a cultural icon for his portrayal of James Kirk in the Star Trek franchise. William Shatner clearly has not let his condition slow him down. Even at the ripe age of 83, he’s busy doing everything from comedy, music and hosting events.

Herm Schneider is a Chicago White Sox’s Head Athletic Trainer. He is the longest tenured and most successful trainer in Major League Baseball. He suffers from sleep apnea and is a strong supporter and advocate for others who struggle with OSA and their CPAP devices. He is one of the members of Airing’s Medical Advisory Board.

Rick Perry is an American politician who is the 14th and current United States Secretary of Energy and had previously served as the 47th Governor of Texas. He was diagnosed with sleep apnea by his doctors on the campaign trail.



Daniel Lawrence (AKA Larry the Cable guy) is a comedian, actor, country music artist and former radio personality. He has 7 gold records under his belt. He admitted during an interview that he has sleep apnea.


Roseanne Barr is an American actress, comedian, writer and television producer. She was also the 2012 presidential nominee of the California-based Peace and Freedom Party. She lives in Hawaii and has said that she keeps her husband up at night due to her snoring. After the sleep study, her doctors diagnosed her with sleep apnea and recommended a CPAP mask and treatment.

Quincy Jones, Jazz trumpeter, record producer, and a winner of a 27 Grammy Awards is also a sufferer of sleep apnea. Quincy has worked with some of the greats like Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra. He has produced albums that have gone on a sell millions of copies worldwide.

Randy Jackson was a judge on the hit TV show American Idol. He was diagnosed with sleep apnea and Type 2 diabetes. He now sleeps better at night and feels more energetic after losing some weight and seeking treatment


JaMarcus Russell is an all American football hero, quarterback, and was the number one overall pick in the NFL draft in 2007. He blames a lot of his shortcomings on OSA and has said that it’s been so bad, that he has fallen asleep in team meetings.




Amy Poehler is an American actress, comedian, director, producer, and writer.  In an interview she said, “Throughout my life I have been told I snore so loudly that it sounds like I am dying or choking”. And speaking about her CPAP machine, she said, “You know it’s good for you but most of the time you don’t feel like it”.

Shonda Lynn Rhimes is an American television producer, screenwriter, and author. She’s the showrunner and creator of hit dramas like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How to get away with murder. She said in an interview that the reason she is so exhausted all the time is because of her sleep apnea.

Arianna Huffington is the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, as well as an author, syndicated columnist, and occasional actress. She suffers from sleep apnea and is the author of “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time”.

Brett Lorenzo Favre is a former NFL American football quarterback who spent the majority of his career with the Green Bay Packers. His reason behind retiring from NFL was sleep apnea. He said in an interview “I couldn’t sleep at night, simple as that. How am I supposed to play the game the right way when I can barely get out of bed in the morning?”

Prince Semien Fielder is an American professional baseball first baseman and designated hitter for the Texas Rangers. After his sleep study results came out, he said, ”I felt like I was sleeping long, but I wasn’t feeling rested.”