We all know the news value of The New York Post. But sometimes it does like to pretend that it’s a hard-hitting investigative news outlet, exposing potential scandals causes for social outrage. One such recent, misguided attempt was attacking what it saw as a rash of people claiming sleep apnea as an “excuse” for criminal activity.
Of course, it leads with a combination of sex and death, starting with the story of a man who awoke on a plane and groped a woman’s breasts, and following with the story of a man whose car jumped the curb and plowed into a group of high-school kids, killing two.
While it’s true that in both cases the accused was acquitted in part because of sleep apnea, that doesn’t mean the argument isn’t justified.
Why Sleep Apnea Can Lead to Criminal Behavior
It’s important to understand what kinds of behaviors sleep apnea is likely to contribute to. It’s most likely to lead to confused actions on waking as well as the tendency to fall asleep during daily activities.
Thus, it makes sense that a jury wouldn’t be convinced in the 1994 case where a man claimed sleep apnea made him mistake his wife for an intruder (or a deer) when he shot her in the head. The process of getting out the gun and aiming it so accurately seemed to strain credibility.
On the other hand, it’s not so hard to believe that a person might reach out blindly and could grab something nearby before he knew what was happening.
It also seems probably that sleep apnea could cause a man to fall asleep behind the wheel, causing him to lose control and crash into the group of teens. It’s well documented that sleep apnea increases a person’s risk for car accidents.
But Shouldn’t People Know?
The Post tried to make it seem like people should know they have sleep apnea and get it treated before these incidents happen. But this is one of the greatest challenges in sleep apnea: perhaps 80% of people with sleep apnea are undiagnosed.
Even people who should be diagnosed often aren’t. Consider the case of the deadly 2013 Bronx train derailment. The engineer complained to his doctor and to a company doctor about telltale symptoms of sleep apnea such as chronic fatigue and daytime sleepiness. He had clear risk factors, including snoring, obesity, and male gender. Instead, his doctor diagnosed him with hypothyroidism and low testosterone. So it’s not that big of a surprise that many people may not discover their apnea until an incident like this happens.
You Don’t Want to Have to Plead Sleep Apnea
Perhaps the worst thing about The Post’s article is that it makes it seem like sleep apnea is being used willy-nilly as a kind of “get out of jail free” card. But the truth is that people pay dearly for their sleep apnea, whether they go to jail or not.
Sleep apnea makes a serious impact on your quality of life on a daily basis. And it puts your health at risk for many serious health conditions. People with sleep apnea may lose ten years or more off their life–the length of prison sentence people might face for many of these crimes. And being involved in one of these accidents will turn your life upside-down. You will be dragged through the media (perhaps incessantly by tabloids like the NYP), and people will never look at you the same.
The truth is that it’s best to treat your sleep apnea and avoid getting involved in these types of incidents.
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea and want to get it treated before suffering the consequences, please call (201) 343-4044 today for an appointment with sleep dentist Dr. Marlen Martirossian at River Edge Dental, New Jersey’s center for TMJ, sleep apnea, & reconstructive dentistry.
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