Will Sleep Apnea Kill Homer Simpson?


In 2000 years, it could be that kids will be forced to spend their entire summer before the first year of high school watching every single episode of The Simpsons – an Odyssean-like epic that perfectly captures the zeitgeist of our time. From the fall of the Berlin Wall to the first black president, this animated series featuring yellow two-dimensional characters is the longest running and most watched sitcom of all time. A few weeks ago, the first episode of the 26th season was sneak-previewed at Comic-Con and there is a major shocker: someone is going to die.

In a disconcerting preview of the episode that was released to bloggers and Simpsons-nerds alike, Homer looks as if he is in extremely bad shape. Easy Breathe – in a previous article – was able to predict that Homer Simpson probably has sleep apnea. Although there wasn’t any hard evidence, there were plenty of clues: his addiction to donuts, his slothful lifestyle, his predilection for beer and the fact that he has suffered numerous heart attacks throughout the show’s history. In the preview, lo and behold, our prediction came true: Homer awakens in a frightful apneatic event with Marge and Lisa by his side.

Is this it for Homer? Has his lifestyle finally caught up with him? Will Homer finally meet his demise? If Homer weren’t a two-dimensional and ageless character on an animated series, he would be in his early 60s – too early to die by today’s American lifespan average, but a prime time for someone who suffers from sleep apnea. In the snippet, Marge attempts to save Homer’s life by helping him strap on a CPAP mask. Lisa runs to her room and turns on her computer to find Homer gasping for air on a “Daddy Cam” she no doubt set up to keep a faithful eye on her father.

Sleep apnea is no laughing matter – it’s no wonder why a nervous son, daughter, wife or loved one would want to check on someone while they sleep to make sure that an apneatic event doesn’t prove fatal. Luckily, Marge’s quick thinking kicks into gear, but as she attempts to put on his CPAP mask, it looks like she actually has no idea which piece goes where. After numerous attempts and some harrowing, flailing gasps for air on Homer’s part, the CPAP mask gets lodged in his throat – his face quickly turns from yellow to a frightening hypoxic shade of chartreuse.

Towards the end of the clip, Lisa is gripped with fear and morosity – what permanent eight year old (she would actually be 34 years old if she weren’t a cartoon character) wouldn’t be after watching a parent go through something like that. Obviously the clip ends there ­– we don’t know what happens next. We don’t know if Homer is miraculously resuscitated or if the Simpsons plan a funeral – no doubt with Moe, Groundskeeper Willie, Ned Flanders and the lovable, chubby idiot Ralph Wiggum in attendance – amongst other notable characters of course. Who knows, there may be a giant funeral parade.

Of course, The Simpsons is a cartoon fantasy, so there may be a happy ending after all. In real life, however, sleep apnea may very well lead to an unhappy ending – and it often does for individuals who don’t seek help.  This is the reason why committing to CPAP therapy is so important. In the series premier preview clip, we can clearly see that Homer is using an older clunker of a CPAP machine – in real life, you probably want to use a new machine, like an auto-titrating S9 Autoset, with an easier and more intuitive mask system.  Also, you want to make sure you start CPAP therapy before you actually fall asleep, so that you can get a full night’s worth of treatment.

At the end of the day, we can thank the creators and animators of The Simpson’s for bringing to light the dangers and travails of sleep apnea and the importance of CPAP therapy. Millions of people are diagnosed with sleep apnea and millions more are undiagnosed – this means that if you suspect you have sleep apnea, it is imperative to get help right away. It also means that you have a little more than a month until the premier of the 26th season of The Simpsons, which airs on September 28th – there is a good chance that we’re in store for a brand new set of shenanigans from our favorite yellow friends from Springfield.