Doctor Explains Why Some People Die In Their Sleep

By Abdul Rafay in Health and Fitness On 5th November 2023
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A doctor has made public the causes of deaths that occur while a person is asleep.

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If you've ever experienced a loss or, like Barbie, considered ending your life, dying while you're asleep sounds like the most tranquil option.

That being said, the possibility that you could fall asleep and never wake up again is at least a little unsettling.

Don't worry; maybe, this will help alleviate your mind as a doctor has gone into greater depth on why individuals die while they sleep and how to help manage specific problems.

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According to Dr. Milind Sovani of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust in the UK, dying while you sleep is "usually related to the heart, lungs, or brain," as she told Newsweek.

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"Occasionally, people with diabetes can die in their sleep from low glucose levels," he adds.

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However, according to Sumeet Chugh, medical head of Cedars-Sinai's Heart Rhythm Center, 90 percent of unexpected deaths during sleep are caused by sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Other, more complex illnesses can also cause a person to pass away while they are asleep.

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According to the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Sovani treated a patient with Pompe Disease, "a genetic condition in which a complex sugar called glycogen builds up in the lysosomes of your body's cells."

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Its website continues: "The disease occurs when you lack a specific digestive enzyme called acid alpha-glucosidase (GAA). The condition causes severe muscle weakness and wasting. Without early detection and treatment, the disease can be fatal."

Sadly, the patient—who was in his late 30s—died while sleeping.

According to Dr. Sovani, conditions like unilateral diaphragmatic paralysis, or paralysis of the diaphragm, can also be dangerous since they reduce lung volume when you lie flat on your back.

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Individuals with refractory epilepsy are more susceptible to a phenomenon known as Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). 

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SUDEP, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the result of respiratory or cardiac rhythm abnormalities during a seizure.

In addition, heart failure and sleep apnea—which the Mayo Clinic describes as "a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts"—can increase your chance of dying while you sleep if your high blood pressure is out of control.

Fortunately, there are steps you may take to lessen the likelihood of these more severe reactions happening.

Maintaining regular contact with healthcare providers and adhering to prescribed medication regimens is crucial for managing epilepsy.

A machine called a CPAP machine may also be used in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. According to the Mayo Clinic, the device "uses a hose connected to a mask or nosepiece to deliver constant and steady air pressure to help you breathe while you sleep."

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'If you suffer from a heart condition, you may also be fitted with a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator,' Sovani adds, which helps regulate your heartbeat.

Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and visiting your doctor frequently can help stop all illnesses from getting worse.