Sleeping in a particular position might put epileptic patients at a greater risk of death. The prone sleeping position or sleeping on the chest has been linked to a higher mortality rate among epilepsy patients, according to the findings of a recent study published in the journal Neurology. Though unexpected death due to sleeping in this position was found to be a relatively rare occurrence, the odds are surely higher.

Younger patients aged 40 or below are placed at a greater risk according to this study carried out under the guidance of James Tao, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology at the University of Chicago. Tao, together with his colleagues, reviewed 25 previously published studies which detailed sudden, unexplained death among epilepsy patients before coming to this conclusion.

Researchers found out that 73percent of the sudden, unexpected deaths occurred while the patients were sleeping on their chest or the prone sleeping position. . “In a subgroup of 88 cases, those younger than age 40 were four times more likely to have died in a prone sleeping position than the older people. In all, 86 percent of those younger than 40 and 60 percent of those over 40 were prone when found dead,” revealed the study.

Tao however went on to add that it had not been confirmed whether those sudden, unexplained deaths had occurred as a result of sleeping in the prone position.

“It’s an association, not cause and effect,” Tao concluded.

Based on the findings of this study, Tao advised epilepsy patients to try sleeping on their back or side. He also exhorted the sleeping companions of such patients to remind them constantly about the need to do so, even at the risk of being termed ‘naggers.’

Tao also mentioned that using wrist watches and bed alarms designed to detect seizures during sleep might be effective in dealing with the problem.



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