Why Do People Die in Their Sleep

While some people find it peaceful to pass away while they sleep, others find it unsettling. There are many different reasons why people may pass in their sleep, and sometimes it is just an unexplained natural cause. This article will explore the question - “Why do people die in their sleep?”. Also, we’ll dive deeper into the causes of people dying in sleep, the risks of dying in sleep, and warning signs.

Key takeaways:

3 common reasons of why do people die in their sleep

Nocturnal death is another term for passing away while you are asleep. While there are other reasons why a person might pass away while they are asleep, these three are the most frequent causes. A person has lost consciousness due to an issue with their heart, lungs, or brain.

1. Problems with the heart

Life depends on your heart, which beats continuously without interruption. Sudden cardiac death can occur at any time, and it is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Heart disease ranks among the leading causes of death in the world each year.

About 22% of cardiac fatalities happen at night. Heart diseases like heart attacks and heart failure are to blame for the majority of deaths that happen while a person is asleep.

2. Problems with breathing

Your lungs are an essential part of keeping you alive. Certain conditions that cause trouble breathing at night, such as obstructive sleep apnea, can put you at a higher risk of dying in your sleep.

With obstructive sleep apnea, you stop breathing multiple times a night, causing your body to be deprived of oxygen. People with this condition are nearly 2 times more likely to die in their sleep. They are also more likely to have a stroke or a heart attack while sleeping.

3. Problems with the brain

Your brain regulates every bodily function, including the function of your heart and lungs. In the US, strokes result in over 100,000 fatalities annually, whether they are caused by a burst blood vessel in the brain (hemorrhagic) or an obstruction in the blood supply (ischemic).

Around 1 in 7 strokes happen at night while people are sleeping.

Signs you may die in your sleep

Dying in your sleep may not be easy to detect if it is sudden and unexpected. You might not even feel sick. However, sometimes people may report that they feel like something isn’t quite right.

  • People with sleep apnea that has gone undiagnosed or without treatment may wake up tired regularly, have a headache, and snore frequently.
  • If you are having chest pain, shortness of breath, or any signs of a stroke, you should call 911 right away and not risk going to sleep.
  • People who have heart conditions may have chest pain, feelings of anxiety, and shortness of breath.
  • "FAST" signs of a stroke include slurred speech, arm weakness, and facial drooping. Since time is of the essence for receiving treatment promptly, the T stands for time.

You may actually have different symptoms or none at all, depending on the cause. Compared to younger people in their 20s or 30s, older adults 60 years of age and above have a higher risk of passing away while they sleep.

To be honest, if there was a single sign that death was imminent, we would know when to get help in advance. It is best to get regular checkups and adhere to your doctor's instructions since we don't.

Preventing dying in your sleep

Don’t let the concept of dying in your sleep cause you to be scared of sleeping. Somnolencia, or the fear of sleeping, is irrational and can arise from the possibility of dying while you are asleep.

There are some ways to lower the risk if you want to go above and beyond to make sure you do not die while you sleep:

  • Get your yearly check-up
  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Take your medication as prescribed
  • Quit drinking alcohol
  • Get good sleep at night

Other reasons people die in their sleep

Among the top three reasons people die in their sleep, there are other causes that can lead to death:

  1. Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death (SUND). In certain cases, the cause remains unknown, leading to this condition being referred to.
  2. Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy. Another way that people with seizure disorders might pass away while they sleep. It is possible for the person to have a seizure in their sleep and then pass away after.
  3. Diabetic death in bed syndrome. Another condition that can lead to a person passing away while they sleep. When blood sugar levels are out of control in diabetics, this happens. Inappropriate blood sugar levels during sleep have the potential to be fatal if left untreated.
  4. A person may experience carbon monoxide poisoning. And pass away while they are asleep. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can suffocate someone. In order to detect leaks, manufacturers frequently scent their gas like rotten eggs. Houses that use gas will often have carbon monoxide sensors in the home to prevent something like this from happening.
  5. Drugs, alcohol, and painkillers. These are examples of sedatives that can cause death while you sleep. Certain drugs have the potential to depress your breathing while you sleep by acting as respiratory depressants. In this scenario, you might also vomit or aspirate on your vomit while you are asleep.

There are several reasons you can die in your sleep. However, try not to let your fear prevent you from getting a good night's sleep. Get help as soon as possible if you are experiencing symptoms of impending death and are really concerned. It is better to be safe than sorry. You should call for an ambulance if you experience any symptoms of one-sided weakness, shortness of breath, or chest pain.


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