Sleep apnea has been established as a contributing cause in the death of Reggie White, a fearsome defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers. “A 43-year-old is not supposed to die in his sleep,” said Keith Johnson, spokesman for the White family. “It was not only unexpected, but it was also a complete surprise. Reggie wasn’t a sick man … he was vibrant. He had lots and lots of energy, lots of passion.”

White, who died on the morning of January 1, had tried conventional therapy to treat sleep apnea, but Sara White, national spokesperson for the Dental Organization for Sleep Apnea (DOSA), and White’s widow said that he was unable to wear the facemask because he was claustrophobic. Although considered one of the best treatments for obstructive sleep apnea, many patients (up to 87% in some studies) are unable to wear the facemask, according to DOSA. Oral appliances, such as those prescribed by dentists, can be used for those who are mask-intolerant. They also can be used as a first-line therapy in treating mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea, according to updated guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “If Reggie would have known about oral appliances he might still be alive today,” Sara White said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. For more information on DOSA, call (888) 285-3244 or visit