You can in fact die from Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There's some interesting discussions on the various CPAP forums going on today related to a CNN news reporter who said that people dying from OSA is "Complete BullS***".

The transcript of the show can be read here, the relevant part is about a fifth down:

NANCY GRACE: They said that Johnny Grunge -- Mike Durham -- he wrestled under the name Johnny Grunge, very, very well-known -- died of sleep apnea. Please. Stop. That`s basically snoring, and you know, not breathing for a few seconds periodically through the night. You don`t die of sleep apnea. That is complete BS.

Apparently this wrestler had been on heavy medications which may have cause "respiratory depression".

The Executive Director of the American Sleep Apnea Association posted "Shame on Nancy Grace" on the Apnea Support Forums as well as on his blog. He clearly believes you can die directly and indirectly from sleep apnea and he is well qualified to make such a statement.

Not only is the health of the sufferer compromised with increased risk of cardiovascular disease,hypertension and metabolic syndrome (to mention only a few), but so is the health of bed partner and other members of the family.

In this CPAPTalk thread, members debate the semantics. Do you die from OSA or do you die from lack of oxygen to the brain? Do you die from a gunshot wound or from the blood lost from a shot wound? Do you die from drowning or from lack of oxygen?

However you want to call it, and whatever the cause was of this wrestler's death, you can die from obstructive sleep apnea, just like you can die from smoking. If smoking is the cause and lung cancer and subsequent death the effect, so is an airway blockage the cause of blood oxygen shortage and brain damage or death the subsequent end result.

For a news reporter to bluntly state, as fact, that it's complete bull's excrements when it's suggested someone might have died from OSA is very shortsighted and bordering on irresponsible.

Maybe the medications aggravated the airway collapse by relaxing of the muscles. Who knows? Maybe this man could have lived had he been diagnosed and treated. Then again, he could have died from many other things too.

11 thoughts on “You can in fact die from Obstructive Sleep Apnea”

  • Dave J. (Scoop0901)

    Awake In America will be posting an official statement about this issue on its site later this evening (July 11, 2007). We've been attempting to work with CNN, Headline News, and the Nancy Grace show since the comment was made, to no avail, sadly.

    Also, I will be dishing out my commentary on my sleep blog, too. It is if you want to check it out.

    Dave Jackson
    National Coordinator,
    Awake In America, Inc.

  • Katie McEwan


    My husband is on CPAP and I'm very glad I don't have to worry whether he will actually wake up!


  • Jared McKinney

    I, as a RPSGT, know as a FACT that people can die from sleep apnea. I now doubt much of anything Nancy Grace has to say on any topic.

  • Laura

    My question it possible to die from sleep apnea while using a CPAP. I have been using a CPAP for a couple of years. I know what it felt like before when I stopped breathing. Now, while wearing the CPAP, I come out of sleep like I've been shocked in the brain. I am not gasping for air, but feel like I've been shocked. I know it sounds crazy. I am terrified to sleep at night. None of the doctors I've gone to can help. I am also on pain meds & sleep meds & I have a feeling this is a problem. Has anyone had this happen to them? If so, what did you do for help?

  • Admin

    Hi Laura,

    You can basically die at any point in time, so theoretically, also when on CPAP. But probably not because of CPAP.

    Based on your symptoms, I wonder whether you suffer form Central Sleep Apnea instead of (or on top of) Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Medications do have side effects, more often than not. And in my opinion, synthetic meds just don't belong in the body. After hundreds of thousands of years of evolution we think in a matter of a 100 years of science we know better than the body. No such thing IMO. If you can do without the medication, I'd drop them and see how it affects your sleep.

    There are decent natural pain killers like serrapeptase you could consider. And for promoting sleep there are solution ranging from meditation to herbal teas and exercise.

    I personally try to avoid medication like the plague.

  • Vera

    Most people I know don't really take her seriously, and with good reason, since she's just a talking head. Her reputation has been so sullied by her own actions over the years that a single comment about the reality of sleep apnea isn't about to gain her any more fans. I say we all pitch in to buy her a really nice CPAP Machine with a full nose/mouth mask. That way maybe she'll talk less, or at least get a good night's sleep and be less crabby on TV.

  • Roger

    Guess this blog is pretty old but there is more and more data becoming available that supports the risks of untreated sleep apnea.
    I don't have a medical background, only OSA, and have spent a fair amount of time researching information.

    Laura it sounds like you should try for another sleep study and see if they can find out the details of what is wrong. Could be that things have changed and the CPAP settings are no longer right for you.

  • Roger

    There is a documentary series, titled “Dead Tired“, Produced and Directed by Paul Scott, that reviews the effect that sleep apnea and sleep deprivation can have on an individual.

    Episode 1 is called "Awake is the New Sleep" and the main story observes in real time what happens to a healthy 25-year old when he cuts back his sleep from 8 to 3 hours a night for one week. It records how he becomes psychotic, dreams whilst awake and drives a car while fast asleep!

    If you want to understand the potential impact that sleep apnea could be having on your life it is worth while watching, it got me back onto my CPAP machine that night.

  • Cleide

    Man O Day! I feel for you! Try reading in bed. Maybe you will sneak into a dose, and get a litlte sleep. I know what you mean about lack of sleep, it can mess you up. Try watching TV, and maybe you will dose off. Get a heating pad and put it on low, and maybe the heat will comfort you, and you may sleep a litlte. Also make a rice bag,(look up Rice Bag on a Search engine, and it will tell you how to make one). Heat can be a comfort. Then see if you can find a good holistic doctor, he may have some natural answers instead of drugs that may help. At least one of these suggestions may help you. Good Luck! arum

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