A new study suggests that sleeping position is linked to sudden death risk in people suffering from epilepsy.

Medical experts suggest that sudden and unexpected death in epileptic people happens when a healthy individual dies and the autopsy report does not show any clear cause of the death.

The latest study does not determine the cause and effect relationship between sudden death in epileptic people and sleeping posture. However, the research suggests that sleeping on stomach, or prone position, increases the risk of sudden death in epileptic patients.

Dr. James Tao, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Chicago, who is also the study leader, revealed that the research involved analysis of 25 studies that included 253 sudden unexpected death cases. The study recorded the body position of people when they were found dead.

The researchers found that in 73 percent of the cases the total deaths were recorded in the prone position, while 27 percent was recorded in other positions. The researchers also observed a subgroup of 88 individuals and found that young people under the age of 40 years were at elevated risks of dying while sleeping on stomach. About 86 percent of the total people who died in the prone position were under age 40 years, in comparison to the 60 percent who were over 40 years.

Dr. Tao says that they are unable to establish why young epileptic people are at higher risk of sudden deaths while sleeping on stomach.

"It may be that they are more likely to be single and not have anyone with them during a seizure while sleeping," says Dr. Tao.

The study also highlights the similarity between death in prone position for epileptic people and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in babies.

Experts suggest that SIDS may occur as babies are not able to wake up while sleeping in the prone position in case of breathing disruption. Epileptic people sleeping on their stomach may also have obstructed breathing that result in deaths.

Dr. Tao also recommends that people who sleep with epileptic individuals should turn the patients on their back in case of any seizure.

The researchers suggest that the findings of the study are important as it highlights the importance of sleeping on the back for epileptic people. Tao also suggests that using bed alarms or wrist watches specially designed for seizure detection during sleep can also help in the prevention of sudden death. 

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