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Ali A, Wu S, Issa NP, Rose S, Towle VL, Warnke P, Tao JX. Epilepsy & Behavior 76(2017):1-6


Individuals with epilepsy are at risk for sudden unexpected death in epilepsy, or SUDEP. Understanding the risk factors of SUDEP will allow us to effectively manage those risks and help lower the occurrence of SUDEP.

Description of Study

This study sought to better understand the association between sleep and SUDEP. The authors reviewed already published research to determine when SUDEP happened during sleep.

  • 67 studies were included with different groups of people ranging from children to adults.
  • SUDEP was looked at in relation to age, gender, sleeping position, and whether it occurred during wakefulness versus during sleep.

Summary of Study Findings

  • Of the 880 people who died from SUDEP, 70% died during sleep and 30% when awake.
  • Of the SUDEP cases that occurred during sleep, there was a significant association for people who slept in the prone position (on their stomach).
  • There was no significant association between SUDEP and gender.
  • People age 40 years or younger were more likely to die in sleep than those older than 40, but this was not statistically significant.

What does this mean?

  • Each year, about 1 in 1,000 people with epilepsy die from SUDEP. Therefore, SUDEP is a rare but real risk that can be managed.
  • There are some simple things that can be done to prevent SUDEP, like sleeping on your back or on your side to allow for uninterrupted breathing.
  • Home monitoring during sleep could help ensure that you do not sleep on your stomach. This could also alert someone if a seizure happened so you could get help sooner.
  • Further research is needed to better understand these relationships as the vast majority of SUDEP cases are not witnessed or monitored by video.

Article published in Epilepsy & Behavior, November 2017.

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Authored By: 
Shaina Hasan
Authored Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Joseph I. Sirven MD
Tuesday, January 10, 2017