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  #1  
Old 03-05-2010, 05:38 PM
Dahu Dahu is offline
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Do people really die in their sleep?

Often people who pass away are said to die peacefully in their sleep. Does this really happen, or is it just what doctors tell the relatives to comfort them? I would have thought that most forms of death involve some pain, and that this would be enough to wake a sleeper.
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  #2  
Old 03-05-2010, 06:02 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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Some heart attacks and strokes kill people very fast so the person might go from sleep to being knocked out and then dead without waking up. But obviously we don't know for sure if the person woke up or not.
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  #3  
Old 03-05-2010, 06:32 PM
Dallas Jones Dallas Jones is offline
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My father died in his sleep, I was sitting in the other room watching TV.

We worked at the same business at that time and he had missed a few days of work. Since mom was out of town, I went to check on dad. He said he hadn't been feeling very well and thought he had the flu. I talked him into going to the doctor but he wanted to wait until morning and get some sleep. So he went to bed and I spent the night to make sure he would go in the morning.

When I turned off the TV and went to bed I checked on him and he was laying there just as peaceful as can be, looked quite serene. But he was gone.

That was over 20 years ago but the father of a close friend of ours just died in his sleep a month ago. Didn't get up at his usual time and was gone when they went to check.

I have known other people who died in their sleep and from my experience it seems fairly common.
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  #4  
Old 03-05-2010, 06:33 PM
put down the sabre put down the sabre is offline
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It does happen, but just because someone's body was found in bed, doesn't mean that they died peacefully.

People can and do die painfully in their beds.

(Wow, that sounds depressing).

pdts
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  #5  
Old 03-05-2010, 06:43 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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My grandma died in her "sleep", said sleep being at least somewhat morphine induced. This was about a month ago - she had pneumonia, my mother was there. She closed her mouth and breathed one more breath, and my mom said there was no sign that she woke up.
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  #6  
Old 03-05-2010, 06:50 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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When I die, I would like to go peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather did. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
--Jack Handey
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Old 03-05-2010, 06:54 PM
Fubaya Fubaya is offline
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My grandmother did. She was in a nursing home and it was clear she didnt have long left. She was asleep but the room was cold so my mom lay down next to her and put her arm around her. Mom dozed off for a minute, woke up and grandma was gone.
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  #8  
Old 03-05-2010, 11:05 PM
MLS MLS is offline
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My husband and some friends were on vacation. One of the party decided to lie down on the couch and take a nap. The rest of them were playing cards in the same room. Mealtime arrived and the sleeper could not be awakened.
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  #9  
Old 03-05-2010, 11:15 PM
MitzeKatze MitzeKatze is offline
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I would venture a guess that most people (who die of natural causes/illness) die in their sleep. My father died in his (morphine induced) sleep, all of my grandparents died in their sleep (one of emphysema/respiratory illness, one of cancer, one in drug-induced "sleep" and one of unknown but natural causes at a very old age). I think it might be part of the body's defense mechanism to go into sleep and stay that way during what could be a painful and/or scary event- either that or it is sheer exhaustion of the body from fighting/trying to heal from whatever the cause of death is.
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  #10  
Old 03-06-2010, 07:25 AM
Chief Pedant Chief Pedant is offline
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Over the years I've witnessed a number of deaths and talked to families about the circumstances of many more.

A sudden abnormal heart rhythm unaccompanied by pain is a common occurrence, as are certain almost instantly fatal cerebrovascular events (particularly at the level of the brainstem). These can result in almost instantaneous and painless loss of sensorium. If the patient was sleeping at the time, they can be said to have died in their sleep. If they were doing something they can be said to have passed away suddenly and peacefully (anxious fellow auto passengers notwithstanding, as Colibri hilariously notes).
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  #11  
Old 03-06-2010, 08:03 AM
don't ask don't ask is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahu View Post
I would have thought that most forms of death involve some pain, and that this would be enough to wake a sleeper.
Though it would have been way cooler if people woke up screaming in pain while they died, in my nursing experience all that happened was that next time you went to take obs they were dead.

My neighbor across the road died on the toilet when I was a teenager. Again a disappointing lack of ghoulish screams.
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  #12  
Old 03-06-2010, 12:14 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is offline
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My uncle died in his sleep. He went to bed with my aunt and when she woke up he was dead. There's no way of knowing how peaceful it was, but if he had screamed or thrashed he would have likely woken her up.

On the other hand, someone who worked in a nursing home once told me that a lot of folks die on the toilet. When that happens, they usually tell the family that the person died peacefully in their sleep.
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  #13  
Old 03-06-2010, 12:24 PM
flodnak flodnak is offline
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I found my grandmother lying lifeless in her bed. She was lying on her side, and the covers over her were lying smooth and flat. No sign of any struggle, she just wasn't in there any more
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  #14  
Old 03-06-2010, 12:38 PM
MitzeKatze MitzeKatze is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
...
On the other hand, someone who worked in a nursing home once told me that a lot of folks die on the toilet. When that happens, they usually tell the family that the person died peacefully in their sleep.
We always called that "vagaling out" because it is typically a vagal response (which can cause syncope and other less fatal reactions) that is the cause of death.
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  #15  
Old 03-06-2010, 12:45 PM
IAmNotSpartacus IAmNotSpartacus is offline
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Father in law, same thing a few months ago, was up at 3AM, mother in law felt bad he couldn't sleep, he went back to bed, she woke up at 7AM, made him some chorizo an hour later and went into the bedroom to wake him up and found him dead as a doornail.
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  #16  
Old 03-06-2010, 12:53 PM
Saintly Loser Saintly Loser is online now
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I'm going to post a counter-example here. Anectdotal, of course.

I was told this story by my grandmother. My grandfather was quite sick. Terminally ill. He was at home, not in a hospital, because he wouldn't have it any other way. He was asleep, and my grandmother was in another room in the house. She heard him call out "[Grandmother's name], can you come in here?" No sign of pain or distress. So she went in to the bedroom, and he said "I'm going to die now." Again, no pain, no distress. And she said he did. He just died, right then. No thrashing, no pain, no momentous struggle. She said it was just like the lights went out.

She always said she was glad he'd called her.
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  #17  
Old 03-06-2010, 01:40 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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I believe Elvis died in the bathroom, at least that is where they found his body.
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  #18  
Old 04-19-2016, 04:40 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
When I die, I would like to go peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather did. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
--Jack Handey
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chief Pedant View Post
If they were doing something they can be said to have passed away suddenly and peacefully (anxious fellow auto passengers notwithstanding, as Colibri hilariously notes).
Life imitates art. This is exactly how my father died. He was driving an RV with four passengers, when he suddenly just drifted off the road and down an embankment, rolling the vehicle. The passenger in the front seat looked at him as the vehicle left the road and said his eyes were fixed and glassy, as though he was already gone. Several of the passengers were injured, one seriously. An autopsy was inconclusive, citing complications of heart disease, but no heart attack.
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  #19  
Old 04-19-2016, 04:51 PM
kunilou kunilou is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahu View Post
I would have thought that most forms of death involve some pain, and that this would be enough to wake a sleeper.
My mother-in-law had congestive heart failure. One day, she sat down on the couch, sighed and closed her eyes. Surrounded by her husband, kids and grandkids -- traumatic for them, of course, but extremely peaceful for her.
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  #20  
Old 04-19-2016, 05:54 PM
panache45 panache45 is online now
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I was with my father, who had Alzheimer's, when he died. I was looking straight at him, and suddenly I could tell he was no longer alive. His eyes and mouth were in fact open; I had to close them. But I have no idea whether he was in any sense "awake."
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  #21  
Old 04-19-2016, 06:01 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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My father and one of his sisters both died in their sleep at home. One of my cousins died while napping in a poolside chair. And another cousin pretty much dropped dead as he was walking out of the bathroom. All of the above were due to MIs.
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  #22  
Old 04-19-2016, 06:28 PM
usedtobe usedtobe is offline
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I once heard that, in 50% of Heart Attacks, the first symptom is death.

Not a bad way to go. Except, perhaps, in the eyes of the passengers...

So many things depend on that silly little pump...
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  #23  
Old 04-19-2016, 06:36 PM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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My mom was unconscious when she died (I'm positive, because I was there) so it was a sleep-like state and there was no sign of distress, but it might have been more accurate to describe it as a coma rather than sleep. My dad was similar, according to my sister. One of my nephews laid down to take a nap one afternoon and didn't wake up.

Yeah, you can die your sleep. You can die a lot of other ways, too, but while asleep seems a pretty quiet way to go from what I've seen.
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  #24  
Old 04-19-2016, 07:14 PM
Scumpup Scumpup is offline
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My dad fell asleep and never woke up, though it took him several days to die. When he finally passed, it was just one last deep breath. He displayed no signs of distress during any of this. He did open his eyes, sit up briefly, and raise his arms above his head during one of my "shifts" when I played some Johnny Cash music for him, but he didn't say anything or even look at me. He just sat there a moment, lowered his arms, lay down, and closed his eyes again. As bad as his last few years were, I don't know that he even had the capacity to hurt any more than he already did.

Last edited by Scumpup; 04-19-2016 at 07:15 PM..
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  #25  
Old 04-19-2016, 07:28 PM
TreacherousCretin TreacherousCretin is offline
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This thread is reminding me of a line from a Freddy King song:

"...Wake up one of these mornings and find your own self dead..."

(I realize this is a serious and rather sad thread, but Colibri was funny already so I'm taking a chance.)
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  #26  
Old 04-19-2016, 07:30 PM
Yllaria Yllaria is offline
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When she was old, my great-grandma lived with my grandparents. My mother once told me that grandpa used to give great-grandma a scalp massage if she was trying to nap and was having trouble drifting off. The massage would relax her. Mom said that one day, during a scalp massage, she just relaxed all the way and died. From Mom's voice when she said it, I think she considered it a gift.
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  #27  
Old 04-19-2016, 07:37 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TreacherousCretin View Post
This thread is reminding me of a line from a Freddy King song:

"...Wake up one of these mornings and find your own self dead..."

(I realize this is a serious and rather sad thread, but Colibri was funny already so I'm taking a chance.)
From John Prine, though at least he got his slippers on:

"Woke up this morning
Put on my slippers
Walked in the kitchen
And died

"And oh, what a feeling!
When my soul
Went through the ceiling
And on up into heaven, I did ride"
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  #28  
Old 04-19-2016, 08:10 PM
RivkahChaya RivkahChaya is online now
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My father had cancer, and slipped into unconsciousness from which he could not be awakened. He was put on oxygen, which probably kept him alive for several hours longer than otherwise, but it was deemed a comfort measure, and that was part of his advance directive. The hospice called me at home, because they couldn't get my mother, who had taken a much-deserved day for herself, and my father had been alert the day before-- we thought he had like a week left-- anyway, they wanted to know if he should be put on IV fluids because the oxygen would dry him out. I asked if they thought he could perceive thirst, and they said no. So I said No IV, but ask my mother again when she checked in.

I went over to the hospice and sat by my father four several hours, then after my mother got there, I left to go to evening minyan. He died while I was gone, and never regained consciousness.

I don't know if he was in a coma, or a vegetative state, or a deep sleep, or drugged out of his mind. His eyes were closed, and he never showed any signs of distress.

I have had a few animals die while asleep. They never seized or had difficulty breathing. They just didn't wake up. They were all very old, except for one, whom the vet hypothesized had a heart problem, because he didn't have an infection of any kidney problems, or FeLeuk, or anything. We couldn't afford a necropsy, and the vet was positive he didn't die of something communicable, so we just buried him, but the point is, he never seized or opened his eyes, or anything. When I found him, he looked peacefully asleep.

I'm grateful for the animals who died in their sleep, because the ones I have watched put to sleep (all had end stage cancers, except one very old cat who had a stroke, and lost the use of one side of her body) seemed to suffer a little, albeit, not as much as they were suffering from their disease, and I don't regret any of those decisions, but I think it would have been a blessing if they had passed away a little earlier in their sleep.

Unless we start attaching electrodes to end-of-life patients, and measuring brain activity at the moment of death, and look for pain responses, we won't ever really know. However, lack of oxygen to the brain does produce a euphoria, so it's possible there's a moment of a sort of high, and then nothing.
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  #29  
Old 04-20-2016, 11:38 AM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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My grandfather died peacefully while I was administering oxygen and we were waiting for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He had had a heart attack that morning, the doctor came over (this was in those bygone days that doctors made house calls) and set him up with oxygen. Sleep or simply unconscious, hard to say, but he just quietly slipped away.
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  #30  
Old 04-20-2016, 01:14 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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One item I read about this said that typically, when you wake up, the body pumps out a shot of adrenalin to get you moving - heart pumps faster, etc. For people on the brink, this could be the extra bit that pushes the heart too far.

Of course, as many anecdotes above show, it's also possible for the heart to fail at any time - so presumably 1/3 to 1/4 of such occurrences will be during sleep time. Plus, lack of oxygen - slow heart - can lead to feelings of tiredness, necessitating some sit down or lie down while on the way out.

Last edited by md2000; 04-20-2016 at 01:14 PM..
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