Sleep is meant to allow us rest and regain strength both mentally and physically, but sometimes, heartbreaking stories arise from it. Take dying for example; there are more people dying from their sleep than most people know. Some of these people either had an illness they weren’t taking seriously or they just got unlucky in their sleep.
So what are those commonly known (and unknown) ways people die through their sleep?
SUDDEN CARDIAC ARREST
Sudden cardiac arrest, also known as SCA, can occur when the sinoatrial node, which is the node in the heart that is essentially your body’s natural pacemaker, becomes impaired. In other words, this condition occurs when the electrical systems of the heart malfunction. And in some cases, it is deadly within the first few minutes.
How does it kill? Well, it basically reduces blood flow to the brain. And the scariest part? Not only can it happen during sleep, but half of cases show no symptoms before the cardiac arrest occurs.
CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colourless and odourless gas that can be lethal if too much of it is breathed into the lungs. It can be found in the fumes that come from running cars, generators, stoves, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, furnaces, and so on, and it can be almost impossible to detect unless a carbon monoxide detector is in use.
How does it kill? Basically, if enough of it builds up in a small enough space, breathing it in can become toxic. And if you inhale enough of it, just having it in your lungs can be enough to “seal the deal” in a very final way. If awake, the victim may experience symptoms like dizziness, weakness, a headache, or an upset stomach. But what if it catches you while you’re asleep? Well, people who are sleeping often experience no symptoms, and they can die in their sleep before they even realise that it’s happening.
Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.
SO if a person come up with an asthma attack while asleep without inhaler beside such person, that person might probably lose it all and give up the ghost.
A myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack, can happen during sleep, though thankfully, the odds are pretty good that this specific type of cardiac event will wake its victim up before it kills them.
Heart attacks happen when blood flow to part of the heart gets blocked. This blockage can destroy part of the heart muscle.
How does it kill? If enough heart tissue gets damaged, the heart may not be strong enough to pump any blood out to the rest of the body. This can result in heart failure, which could be lethal if medical treatment isn’t obtained immediately.
Unfortunately, it isn’t usually possible for a heart attack victim to seek medical attention if they are asleep, and that is the part that’s terrifying.
CENTRAL SLEEP APNEA
CSA is basically a disorder that causes the sufferer’s breathing to stop and start repeatedly while they are unconscious. It happens when the brain doesn’t send the proper electrical signals to the muscles that control the breathing mechanisms during sleep and is believed to originate from a problem in the brain stem.
How does it kill? Basically, if the case of apnea is bad enough, hypoxemia may set in—which happens when oxygen levels in the body fall below those required for normal life function. This basically leads to oxygen deprivation.
If the brain is not able to rouse the body in enough time to take a breath, the prognosis can be fatal!
UNEXPLAINED NOCTURNAL DEATH SYNDROME
Unexplained nocturnal death syndrome (SUNDS) was first reported in 1917. Since then, it has gained a pretty scary reputation in both textbooks and on the dark corners of the Internet. In the Philippines, they call it Bangungut, and in Hawaii, they call it Dream Disease.
The exact cause of death among those who die of SUNDS is actually still unclear, but the presentation always seems to be similar. It basically causes otherwise young, healthy individuals to die in their sleep for seemingly no reason.
How does it kill? Scientists still aren’t sure, but it tends to occur frequently in Southeast Asia, and researchers suspect a range of possible explanations, from malfunctions of the ion channel to ventricular fibrillation.
A cerebral aneurysm, also known as a brain aneurysm, is basically a weak spot in the wall of a blood vessel in the brain. It is kind of like a thin balloon that fills with blood. But over time, as the blood pumps through the artery, it continues to weaken and swell—and if the pressure increases too much, a rupture can occur.
How does it kill? When an aneurysm ruptures, the bleeding usually only lasts for a few seconds. But the blood causes damage to the surrounding brain cells and can increase the pressure inside the skull if the pressure elevates too much, the condition can quickly turn fatal.
OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder in which the victim repeatedly stops and starts their breathing process during sleep. OSA is by far the most common type of sleep apnea, and as it turns out, it is also probably the most likely reason that a person may die in their sleep
This type of sleep apnea is literally caused by an obstruction that blocks the airway. This obstruction is usually caused by sagging throat muscles, though the muscles and tissues of the tongue, uvula, tonsils, and soft palate can all play a part.
It has been said that millions of people suffer from sleep apnea, but that about 80 percent of them go undiagnosed—making it a true “silent killer” that many people remain unaware of.
So how does it kill? People with OSA experience sudden drops in blood oxygen levels when they stop breathing, and if they are already at risk for a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure, then OSA can be the trigger that sets a sudden cardiac event into motion.
In such cases, death may occur before the victim even has a chance to wake up