Connect with us
Ministry of health

When death attacks you during sleep


When death attacks you during sleep

Dying in sleep!!

Have you ever lost a loved one in a sudden unexpected circumstance? When you were with that person at one moment chatting, they tell you that he/she is dead. It is shocking, isn’t it? Well my family and I have had a misfortune of going through this incident.

As far as I know, it started with the sister to my grandmother. This was one lively woman who made it a point to put a smile on everyone’s face. On the fateful night of her death, she was a woman possessed with happiness. She couldn’t stop talking and laughing. It was as if she knew that was her last night. It took some time to convince her to sleep but when morning came, she had already passed on during her sleep. The unfortunate fact is that no one had heard her struggle or scream.

The second person to die through his sleep was my cousin. He came back from his rounds with some bit of fatigue and decided to take a nap on the couch. However, he also never woke up from his sleep.

Then came my uncle. At least for him he had been ailing. However, just when his family thought he was recovering, he passed on in his sleep while seated on the couch. He had been watching TV when he dosed off however when his wife came to wake him up, he couldn’t wake up.

Now for my Dad, his case was a bit different. He was at work early in the morning when his body was attacked with fatigue. He decided to go take a nap in his car but while there, his colleagues had him scream for help. They rushed him to Rubaga Hospital only for the doctor to pronounce him dead in the emergence room.

After five months of this incidence came another uncle’s death. He was found dead in his bedroom.  His back was leaning on the wall next to his bed, his legs dangling off the bed, one arm was cradling his head while the other was resting on his Bible. His posture to the eye was one of relaxation and yet he was lifeless.

If u feel after reading this story that my family is cursed or facing a dark spell you are not alone in that matter. I felt the same way after I memorized all these deaths. However, with a little research and a visit to Dr. Douglas Bwakucha of Crane Health Services, I was assured that there is nothing nocturnal about these deaths even if they all happened during sleep.

He says death is something that will happen at any time, be it day or night or when one is sleeping or awake or doing an activity.  Once a person’s heart stops beating, he/she will be pronounced dead.

However, given the fact that all these deaths were sudden and unexpected he noted that they fall under the Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome (SUDS).

What is SUDS

As described by the American Heart Association, a non-profit organization in the United States that fosters appropriate cardiac care in an effort to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke, SUDS is a sudden, unexpected death which may occur during sleep, whilst awake, or just after exercise. They are usually non-traumatic, non-violent, and unexpected occurrences that attack a person who previously was considered to be healthy.

Causes of SUDS

History reveals that SUDS was first noted in Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, Japan, Laos and Thailand where it was cloaked in superstition, mystery, folklores and myths.  The Hmong people of Laos blamed these kinds of deaths to a malign spirit said to take the form of a jealous woman which attacks during one’s dreams. As regards to the Philippines, SUDS were believed to be caused by a mythological creature called batibat. This hag-like creature sits on the victim’s face or chest during sleep so as to immobilize and suffocate him. Others however thought ingesting high levels of carbohydrates with alcohol just before sleeping causes SUDS.

It was only recently as revealed by experts that the scientific world begun to understand some of the causes of this syndrome.  While many victims of SUDS have not been found to have any organic heart diseases or structural heart problems, it was discovered that many seem to suffer from a cardiac activity during SUDS episodes which indicates irregular heart rhythms and ventricular fibrillation.

Normally, as disclosed by Dr. Bwakucha the key factor behind these sudden deaths is the heart. He says most people die suddenly because they may be suffering from a heart condition they were not aware of. However, he notes that this cannot be proved until a postmortem is done. If a postmortem reveals a heart condition then this death will be grouped under Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome (SADS).

Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome (SADS)

As an organization that provides cardiac care in an effort to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases, the American Heart Association defines SADS as genetic heart conditions that can cause sudden death in apparently healthy children, teens and old people. It reports that SADS conditions occur because the electrical system of the heart is not working properly, so that the heart beats with an abnormal rhythm.

“Arrhythmia” according to Dr. Emmanuel Kayiza of Central Medical Center in Kyengera refers to the irregular beating of one’s heart. It means your heart beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly. a type of arrhythmia which involves a fast heartbeat of 100 beats or more each minute is called Tachycardia, while the type of arrhythmia which describes a slow heartbeat of about 60 beats or less each minute is bradycardia.

Generally, when there is a temporary change in one’s cardiac rhythm or heartbeat, he states that this is not necessarily dangerous, but arrhythmic heartbeats cease to be non-threatening if the heart rate stays irregular for a long time, simply because this will lead to sudden loss of heart function also known as cardiac arrest.

He explains sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical system to the heart malfunctions and suddenly becomes very irregular. The heart beats dangerously fast. The ventricles may flutter or quiver (ventricular fibrillation), and blood is not delivered to the body. In the first few minutes, he says blood flow to the brain will be reduced so drastically that a person will lose consciousness. Then death will follow unless emergency treatment is begun immediately.

Emergency treatment as revealed by American Heart Association includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation. CPR is a manual technique using repetitive pressing to the chest and breathing into the person’s airways that keeps enough oxygen and blood flowing to the brain until the normal heart rhythm is restored with an electric shock to the chest, a procedure called defibrillation.

It reports that usually, the people who died from SADS do not know they had any heart issues, but if diagnosed, these conditions can be treated and deaths can be prevented.

Given the fact that SADS conditions are passed down from parent to child, it discloses that each child of an affected parent has a 50% chance of inheriting the condition. Some warning signs for heart issues are: a family history of unexplained or unexpected death, persistent or unusual chest pain and/or shortness of breath during exercise, and fainting spells or seizures during exercise or excitement.

It also states that people, who are obese, suffered from previous heart attack and those suffering from diabetes, coronary artery disease, and heart failure are also at a high risk of SADS.

Sleep Apnea

Apart from SADS, another disorder which commonly affects older people or infants and can cause death during sleep is central sleep apnea.

According to Dr. Kayiza, sleep apnea refers to the pause or stop in breathing during sleep. He explained that every time the brain pauses in sending its signals to the muscles that manage breathing, the sleeping person stops breathing. He estimated that this can take around 10 seconds to a few minutes. However, death will occur once the body exceeds its limit of functioning without oxygen which is around 5 minutes.

Blood Clotting

As revealed by Dr. Kayiza, it is usually after accidents like cutting one’s skin or having a bad fall, that blood coagulates or clots. He says normally, the body will naturally dissolve the clot after the injury has healed, but sometimes, clots form on the inside of vessels or fail to dissolve naturally and cause a blockage.

He notes that small clots are not health threatening and can easily be resolved by medication. However, when large amounts of blood form into clumps and restrict the blood’s movement in vital organs such as the heart or brain, clots become a health threat and this can lead to sudden death.  Therefore if someone was sleeping, they may never wake up.

That is why medical professionals perform scans on trauma victims to detect blood clotting and prevent such death.

Old Age

Another common cause of sudden death either during sleep or while awake according to Dr. Kayiza is old age. He says when you age, your cells gradually die and your body’s systems weaken. This means that anytime someone’s body can shutdown. So while the death certificate may claim that the cause of death is heart-related, he says the heart issue may merely be a symptom of old age.

The unknown factor

Apart from the above causes, Dr. Bwakucha says there is also a situation where by the cause of death is unknown even after a postmortem has been done. But this does not mean that the case is supernatural it is just that the cause has not yet been researched and discovered.

So, next time you lose a person to sudden death during sleep or whilst awake, before you think of witchcraft and dark curses, let the doctors perform a postmortem, it will reveal the cause of death.



More in Health




To Top