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Why do some people die in their sleep? The most common causes

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Why do some people die in their sleep?  The most common causes

Learn about common causes of sleep death, from cardiac arrest to respiratory disease, and how these conditions affect your night’s rest.

The causes of nocturnal death they vary worldwide, but some emerge as particularly common, surprising in their nocturnal quiet. Dying while sleeping, although it may seem disturbing, is sometimes considered a peaceful passage into the unknown.

Death in sleep.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest represents the main cause of death during sleep, with a significant 22% of episodes occurring at night, between 10pm and 6am. It has been observed that women are particularly susceptible to this condition.

Myocardial Infarction and Other Cardiac Pathologies

A heart attack, triggered by blockage of blood vessels, can precipitate cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia, impair the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively, increasing the risk of heart failure.

Congestive Heart Failure

This chronic condition limits the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently, which can lead to cardiac arrest due to fluid accumulation in the lungs or peripheral edema.


A stroke, resulting from clots or ruptured blood vessels in the brain, can prove fatal during sleep, affecting breathing and awareness.

Respiratory failure

Diseases such as COPD, lung cancer and cystic fibrosis can alter gas exchange in the lungs, leading to critical respiratory failure.

Changes in blood sugar

Diabetes can cause dangerous fluctuations in blood glucose levels during the night, with a particular risk of hypoglycemia especially in younger people, under 40 years of age.

Carbon Monoxide and Drugs

Exposure to carbon monoxide or incorrect use of medications, such as stimulants, benzodiazepines, opioids and sedatives, can be fatal, causing respiratory or cardiac arrest.

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Cerebral Trauma and Suffocation

And brain trauma previously undiagnosed can be fatal if a brain hemorrhage occurs during sleep. Choking, caused by vomit or food, can lead to asphyxiation.

Sudden Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) and Sleep Apnea

Finally, SUDEP affects individuals with uncontrolled epilepsy, potentially disrupting breathing or heart function during sleep. Sleep apnea, however, can exacerbate pre-existing conditions, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

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