Sleep is an essential activity the body needs to survive, as it enables optimal recovery and rejuvenation. However, some people don't wake up from their sleep for various reasons and may die. While this might be an unpleasant thought and under-reported, it is crucial to understand the common reasons why people die while sleeping. This article explores some of these reasons and what you can do to prevent them.
According to webmd, Cardiac arrest is among the leading causes of death while sleeping. It occurs when the heart stops pumping blood in rhythm with the rest of the body. This sudden loss of blood flow can cause a lack of oxygen supply to the body's vital organs, such as the brain and lungs, leading to death.
Several underlying factors can cause cardiac arrest, such as coronary artery disease, where plaque builds up in the arteries' walls, disrupting blood flow, heart disease, arrhythmias, and blood clots in the arteries, among others.
Older adults and people with pre-existing heart conditions are most at risk and should take measures to maintain a healthy lifestyle, manage underlying conditions, and undergo medical checkups regularly.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition where breathing stops and starts when one is asleep. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, over 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. While the condition is not directly fatal, OSA contributes to other conditions such as hypertension, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes, which could lead to life-threatening complications.
Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, causing an obstruction in the flow of air. The pauses in breathing can last up to ten seconds, leading to low oxygen saturation levels in the blood, leading to heart strain.
People with high risk for OSA include those who are obese, older adults, and on medication with sedative effects, and people with narrow airways.
Underlying Health Conditions
Several underlying health conditions can lead to death while sleeping, ranging from respiratory, neurological, heart, and kidney disease, among others. For instance, asthma sufferers may experience bronchoconstriction, leading to inadequate oxygen supply, while people with Parkinson's Disease may experience choking or aspiration due to decreased muscle control.
It is crucial to manage underlying conditions by undergoing treatment, taking medication as prescribed, attending regularly scheduled checkups, and alerting your doctor to any significant changes.
Sleeping Pills, Narcotics, and Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Many people take sleeping pills, narcotics, or consume alcohol to manage difficulty sleeping. While these substances may help you fall asleep, they are also potentially lethal when taken excessively.
Sleeping pills, commonly referred to as sedatives, may cause respiratory depression, cardiac problems, and mental impairment, leading to difficulty breathing and poor judgment.
Taking narcotics, such as heroin, also causes respiratory depression, leading to insufficient oxygen levels in the brain and other vital organs.
Excessive alcohol consumption leads to depressed breathing, leading to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the brain and vital organs, leading to death.
It is crucial to moderate the consumption of medications and alcohol or seek alternatives such as therapy or other medication types.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, often referred to as Cot Death, is among the leading causes of death in infants during sleep. It occurs when an infant below the age of one dies suddenly while asleep, with no recognisable cause. It is thought to be triggered by brain defects or Immature Immune System.
While researchers have not figured out the exact cause, some preventive measures could reduce the risk of SIDS. These include placing babies on their backs while sleeping, using firm bedding, and ensuring the infant's sleep environment is free from potential hazards, such as blankets, pillows, toys, and waterbeds.
While death during sleep may be an uncomfortable and under-reported topic, knowing the common causes could help prevent future fatalities. Some reasons why people die while sleeping include Cardiac Arrest, Sleep Apnea, Underlying Health Conditions, Sleeping Pills, Narcotics, and Excessive Alcohol Consumption, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It is imperative to maintain a healthy lifestyle, seek treatment for underlying conditions, and reduce exposure to risky substances. Attend regularly scheduled check-ups, and if you or a loved one experiences unusual symptoms, contact a medical professional promptly.
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