Is Sleeping On Stomach Dangerous For Epilepsy Patients?

Many of us like sleeping on our stomachs. Some consider it to be one of the most comfortable bedtime positions while others use it as some sort of relief from stomach pains or back problems. It has even been proven to help in the digestion process, according to Daily Health Post.

However, although sleeping on our stomachs is generally considered a normal and pleasant activity, some doctors are warning people –especially those with epilepsy — to stay away from the snug sleeping posture. An alarming study from the University of Chicago has found that people who suffered from epilepsy were more at risk of sudden, unexpected death than those who preferred other sleeping positions.

Researchers reviewed thousands of epilepsy studies conducted over the years, and pulled out 25 studies that had fairly documented sleeping habits and positions of those who suffered from epilepsy. In their meta-analyses, the scientists discovered that more than 73 percent of epilepsy patients who were included in the two dozen studies died while sleeping on their stomachs — scientifically called a prone position — while the rest of the cases died while sleeping in other positions, according to Medical News Daily.

Eleven of the cases of epilepsy deaths were recorded via video and electroencephalography (EEG), and all of them occurred when the patients were sleeping on their stomachs. The scientists conclude that there was a clear link between the prone position and sudden, unexpected death among epileptic patients.

The findings and interventions for sudden deaths among epileptic patients (SUDEP) might also be applicable to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the researchers.

James Tao, one of the authors of the study, commented, “In SIDS patients, impaired arousal secondary to serotonin deficiency can suppress auto-resuscitation mechanisms and prevent them from lifting or turning their heads when their airway is obstructed by soft bedding in a prone position. As such, positioning susceptible children on their backs at bedtime, as in the ‘Back-to-Sleep’ campaign, has been highly successful for the prevention of SIDS.”

Every year, around 150,000 people in the United States get diagnosed with epilepsy, according to As many as two million, or seven out of 1,000, people in the U.S. currently suffer from the disorder. Although there is presently no cure for epilepsy, scientists are continually studying possible responses against the disorder.

The study will be published in the latest version of the journal Neurology.

[Image from Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr]