Think Like a Pancreas

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Does Hypoglycaemia cause Dead-in-Bed Syndrome in Young Diabetic Patients?

Dead-in-Bed Syndrome in Young Diabetic Patients

Oddmund Sovik, MD, DRMEDSCI
Hrafnkell Thordarson, MD

The so-called dead-in-bed syndrome refers to sudden death in young diabetic patients without any history of long-term complications. Autopsy is typically negative. The present report summarizes frequency data on this condition from studies in the U.K. and the Scandinavian countries. It appears that such deaths occur in 6% of all deaths in diabetic patients below age 40 years. The frequency may also be expressed as 2–6 events per 100,000 patient-years. The causes are by definition unknown, but a plausible theory is a death in hypoglycemia, since a history of nocturnal hypoglycemia is noted in most cases. While waiting for the clarification of the underlying pathophysiology, one should attempt to identify patients who are at particular risk of hypoglycemia and advocate caution in efforts to normalize blood glucose and HbA1c in these cases.

Diabetes Care 22 (Suppl. 2):B40–B42, 1999


  1. I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter. She is two years younger than ours,dx'd with Type 1 at age 8. Truly every parent's worst fear, you have had to face. I also believe there is another cofactor besides hypoglycemia, such as early cardiac neuropathy or cardiac arrythmia. Just by virtue of a Type 1 diagnosis, these kids already have the same cardiac risk as one who has already had a heart attack. Type 1 is a deadly disease. Just because so many manage to survive may mean we don't acknowledge the seriousness of this diagnosis. We have been lucky so far. Your angel is safe in heaven and not suffering. Impossible for those she has left behind. God bless you.

    1. Hi, and thanks for contacting me. I am sorry it has taken so long to get back to you but I misplaced your message. I have just read it again and want to thank you for your further insight into this terrible death syndrome. Before Danielle left us, I was too scared to read about it and so you are very strong to have read about what has happened to us. You are right, the heart plays a big part in all this. If diabetes wasn't present beforehand, I would have thought SADS (Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome) was to blame as I think they are very similar. I have met new friends whose non-diabetic children have dropped down in front of them and they have been dead before they reached the floor. I do hope she is safe in heaven like you said, as it is a lovely thought. Thanks so much. Babs xx

  2. I think there is definetely co-factors to the hypoglycemia. I'm a T1 survivor of 20 years now, dxd at 12 and have lived the last 16 years alone which to many is unheard of.

    Ive had my share of hypos, however I have fairly astute hypo awareness, Ive had a few incidents overnight, usually when I am out somewhere or staying with a friend.

    The bodies response to release adrenaline will have an impact on the heart rate and potentially cause cardiac arythmia. I feel it ever so often when I am hypo, my heart starts beating irregularly. Not fast as is typically expected from a hypo, but irregularly. By this stage my vision is severely degraded, with no sugar to control eye focus, I've only got light or dark to go by.

    Its only happened perhaps a half dozen times in the thousands of hypos I would have had over the 20 years.

    My heart goes out to you and everyone impacted by dead in bed syndrome. It's a loss I wish no one ever have to go through again.

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I would urge anybody to get in touch me with if their child has been taken from them in this horrific way. I am starting a campaign to raise awareness.