4 Facts about the “Bangungot” that you Need to Know

Sleeping Beauty


Nothing’s wrong with having a big meal full mainly of carbohydrates and starchy food, and the same thing goes for sleeping on your comfy bed mattress. However, when the first is immediately followed by the second, it can have a lot of undesired consequences, especially death. Wait, what? Death? What’s wrong with eating and then sleeping?

Well, for most of the people in this planet, it’s not exactly an automatic logical reaction – “Eat + Sleep = Death.” Right? But in some parts of the world and for some people, it’s a lethal reality. Literally.

In the Filipino language, the word “bangungot” (pronounced as simple as it’s spelt), can mean something as humble and normal as a nightmare, and can also refer to dying in sleep. No one wants either of them. I mean, I’d rather be in a lucid dream with Slenderman instead of never having to wake up in the morning, when “sleep” means something equally applicable as eternal sleep and mortality.

Here in the Philippines, a lot of elderly (and some who still stick to the superstitious tradition) leave the mysterious death as a responsibility of an eerie fat lady demon who sits on the sleeping person until they suffocate. They call it the “batibat”, and it makes up a lot of explanation.

But surely, there’s something more scientifically logical and explainable than that, right? Well that’s the reason why this article exists. I’m sure you’re going to learn the real facts about the “sudden death syndrome.”

Freddy Kruger, A Nightmare on Elm Street
There, there. This guy can only get you in your sleep if (1) you’re a teenager and if (2) you live on Elm Street

Facts About Bangungot

  • It’s a physiological occurrence

Obviously, if you haven’t deduced it for yourself yet, it’s not because of a fat lady demon sitting on her victims until they suffocate to death. It’s something believable and closer to being fully explained and understood by the medical field.

The “bangungot” isn’t what tradition defines it to be. Death and the failure of organs necessary for living is not a direct cause of the musings and actions of fictional characters. Even the Deathnote causes cardiac arrest, which is still explainable by the medical field, although the answer to the question “why” isn’t really answerable in the context of the Animé series.

  • Sleep apnea causes similar effects

Sleep apnea is a very real occurrence and it claims the lives of as many people as any “bangungot” does. The term “bangungot”, when applied to death, can be used as a nonspecific label that generally refers to death that’s neither intentional nor inflicted. It just happens during sleep. It’s possible that sleep apnea, a hazard of snoring can also cause this. Technically, it’s a form of asphyxiation, but it still leads to death nonetheless.

  • Asphyxia during sleep may also be labelled as such

Due to the wide and general use of the term to describe death in sleep, sleep apnea is but one of many forms of asphyxia (or commonly known as suffocation). A long list of possible reasons for suffocation can be added to be the real medical and nonfictional counterpart of the “bangungot.” Although the full list is too long to be included here, it includes something as somewhat directly self-inflicted like drug overdose to an unfortunately unintentional epileptic seizure.

  • Acute pancreatitis is the most common explanation

One similarly consistent thing about the “bangungot” is that the victim usually eats a lot right before sleeping. Sleep Eating in itself has its own set of negative consequences, but this one is different. To put it more specifically, acute pancreatitis has been a commonly agreed-upon reason by doctors who talk about the lethal consequences of eating copiously that’s immediately followed by sleep. In a nutshell, it means that the pancreas simply fails due to the excess. The details of that ailment are not to be found here, but you get the point.

Nothing’s wrong with eating. Nothing’s wrong with sleeping. Just remember that there’s a time for everything and too much of anything is definitely wrong. It’s a balance, and let’s just keep it there. Eat well and sleep tight. Good night everyone!