Why some people die in their sleep - scientists' explanation

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Why some people die in their sleep - scientists' explanation

Mankind has long been worried about death. It's normal for people to think about death, especially when it comes to how it might happen. Some people may worry about dying in their sleep, but fortunately, unless you have a specific medical condition, the likelihood of this happening is relatively low.

There are several reasons why someone might die in their sleep, but they usually center around three of our most important organs: the heart, lungs, or brain. When we're asleep, we're less likely to be able to react to signals that might indicate something is wrong with these organs, Newsweek writes.


The most common cause of sleep-related deaths is heart-related. According to Sumit Chag, medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Rhythm Center, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is responsible for 90 percent of sudden and unexpected deaths during sleep. People at higher risk for SCA include those with coronary heart disease, an enlarged heart or an irregular heartbeat.

Read also: Scientists have found out what a person feels moments before death

SCA is when the heart suddenly stops beating, which in turn stops blood flow to major organs and can lead to death without immediate treatment.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can also play a role in sleep death. People with OSA are more than 2.5 times more likely to experience sudden cardiac death between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. than people without obstructive sleep apnea. OSA involves the muscles in the airways constricting, briefly stopping a person's breathing. This leads to a lack of oxygen and, in turn, increases heart rate and blood pressure, which, according to Dr. Chaga, increases the risk of SCA.


Epilepsy is a common condition that affects the brain, during which people experience recurring seizures. For people whose seizures are completely controlled with medication, sudden death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the leading cause of death. While the causes of SUDEP are not entirely clear, it often occurs at night, and some studies suggest that sleep may increase the risk of it.

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Stroke may be the cause of sudden overnight death. About 25 percent of strokes occur during sleep, and conditions such as OSA can also increase the risk. They occur when a blood clot or ruptured blood vessel prevents blood from reaching the brain. Without an oxygen supply, brain cells die and the body parts that affected the brain's control areas can no longer function properly, which can be fatal.

How to manage the risks?

Those who suffer from conditions that can increase the risk of dying while sleeping are advised to talk to a doctor, who will be able to take into account factors such as lifestyle and family history. As for everyone else, Chag says the risk of sudden death is relatively low.

To reduce this risk, doctors recommend keeping a close eye on your health, getting enough sleep and exercise, and eating a healthy diet.

Earlier, scientists have learned what a person sees before death.

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