Numerous studies have concluded that estimated time of sleep per night an adult needs in order to be able to have a long and productive life is between 7 and 9 hours depending on specific features. This leads to the fact that an average human spends around a third of their lives asleep. But apart from the decline of life quality level in case there is lack of it, what other dangers may sleep pose?
Unfortunately, a big number of deaths occur with people in their sleep as well. While in itself it may be of no surprise, sleep is a state when certain conditions may happen suddenly to an individual, causing their imminent death. We do not speak here about any unlucky accidents like fatal natural phenomena, murders or poisoning getting from some external sources. What we bring up is our own bodies’ failures that can take place while we are peacefully having our well-deserved night rest.
One would hardly argue that our heart is the driving force of functioning of the whole organism. Working as a pump for our bloodstream, it is responsible for all the systems’ operational state, as they need oxygen to perform their job successfully. However, cardiac function is particularly vulnerable during sleep. Among the most common causes of death in one’s sleep are
- heart attacks (the state of coronary artery blockage that may lead to heart failure in blood circulation)
- arrhythmias (malfunction of cardiac rhythm leading to blocks that also prevent heart’s effective work and, in such cases as ventricular dysfunctions, may become lethal)
- congestive heart failure – CHF (the state of a one-sided heart failure resulting into accumulation of fluid in the lungs preventing proper oxygenation)
As lungs work together with heart in order to provide supply of oxygen for all the systems, their dysfunction is also highly likely to lead to the other system’s failure because of extreme levels of carbon dioxide that is naturally supposed to be replaced by oxygen. Ones of the most common problems here are
- asphyxiation (the state of the lack of oxygen because of choking on vomit, obstructive sleep apnea or for other reasons)
- chronic diseases of respiratory system (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer, pulmonary embolus, pneumonia, asthma etc.)
Mostly potentially dangerous conditions that may result into a person’s death in sleep and are not connected with heart or respiratory failures come from sleep disorders, and yet inexplicable medical issues. Such are
- parasomnias (the state of atypical things happening to people while they sleep. These things include sleepwalking, that may lead to getting into dangerous situations; REM sleep behavior disorder, that may lead to head trauma falling out of bed and, consequently, brain hemorrhage., etc. )
- sudden death in epilepsy – SUDEP (this condition is not understood by medical professionals well enough yet)
- sudden infant death syndrome – SIDS (a condition when an infant for some reason can’t breathe properly during sleep, quite common, but also impossible to prevent yet)
Unfortunately, little is known about how to predict and prevent these conditions to avoid such a fatal outcome as death. In some cases regarding breath issues, it is possible, though, to notice and track certain changes in breath rhythm, such as pauses in breathing, bruxism, nocturia, snoring etc. Sleep disorders are possible to treat as well, especially on their early stages. General attention to one’s health will always be a benefit that reduces odds to die of the aforementioned reasons. It is necessary to keep in mind both importance of leading a healthy lifestyle and observing one’s state during sleep, particularly among elderly people.