Dying In Your Dreams Might Actually Kill You…Seriously

Sleeping Too Much Is Bad


“Sudden death is all we’ll see. Sudden death is you and me” – Mr. Bungle.

I remember the first time I heard about the boogeyman. I had this babysitter named Stephanie who had a wooden leg (no kidding, it was actually made of wood) and the thickest lenses on a pair of glasses that I’ve ever seen – still, to this day. She showed up one evening at the house as my parents were going out for the night. There were no introductions. No feeling out the situation. My mom just turned to me and said, “this is the girl who’ll be watching you guys for a few hours. Behave yourself.” And that was that.

I have no idea where mom found the woman. Back then, the interview for having someone watch your children wasn’t as grueling as it is now. It typically began and ended with, “are you available, and can you do it for $20 and a large pizza?” All I know is Stephanie looked a hell of a lot like one of the Manson girls. I could tell that something was off about her, too, as soon as she sat down next to us on the couch, removed her prosthetic, and asked my brother and me whether we could hop around on one foot as long as she could.

Spoiler alert: We couldn’t!

She later told us that if we didn’t say our prayers before bed, the boogeyman was coming to get us. Even when I called her on this nonsense, saying something to the effect of “Nuh-uh, there’s no such thing as ghosts,” Mrs. Manson found a way to really sell it. She explained that the boogeyman was no ghost. Oh no, he was far more sinister than all of that. She then fed us some elaborate spiel about how this evil dude lingers underneath the beds of small children and haunts their dreams at night. He was the nightmare maker. And if that bastard decided to drag you into hell, you’d die in your dreams and never, ever wake up.


Decades later, I still haven’t had a decent night’s sleep. It could be said that the babysitter known as Stephanie is, in ways, responsible for years of bad nerves that make a guy jump like a little girl during scary movies. But it wasn’t just her. I heard countless times after that horrific night that if a person dies in their sleep, they will drop dead for real. Priests were even known to tell kids this stuff. It might be the boogeyman at work or something else altogether, but the word on the street was that passing away in your dreams was a one-way ticket to the grave.

But come on. There couldn’t possibly be any truth in the rumors that a death dream can actually snuff someone out right there in bed. It just doesn’t seem plausible. Yet, on the other hand, the origins of this twisted tale had to come from somewhere. I mean, I remember hearing about this sort of thing long before the movie ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ became popular in the mid-1980s, so it had to be more than just some made-up mumbo jumbo spewing from the swollen sphincters of Hollywood sickos. Come to find out, it is. In fact, a recent report from the folks at Sci-Fi suggests that Wes Craven actually came up with the idea of the Freddy Krueger character based on real-life accounts of people dying in their dreams.

Well, kind of.

The whole thing got started in 1981 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report showing how an increasing number of Americans were dying unexpectedly in their sleep. The agency called it Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SUNDS). It meant that a person went to bed thinking about all of the meaningless crap they were going to do tomorrow, and tomorrow never came.

It wasn’t just a fluke either.

The report was based on almost 120 cases where healthy individuals as young as twenty-five did not wake up after turning in for the night because their hearts just stopped. For obvious reasons, the threat of SUNDS scared the holy living bejeezus out of people for years. But by around 1988, however, there were fewer cases. It seemed the boogeyman had made his kill quota and was taking some much needed time off.

Although it is impossible to know whether these people were having nightmares at the time of their deaths, the study referenced by the CDC suggests that extreme anxiety may have prompted them to experience a level of panic and terror during their slumber that ultimately caused their demise. It’s almost like they were scared to death. Like a flood of adrenaline hit their hearts, and all of a sudden, BAM! They were gone.

Again, there’s no way of knowing if night terrors actually had anything to do with these cases of SUNDS, but scientists believe they may have been the culprit. All we’re saying is that it might be best not to go to bed after watching a horror flick. You might want to end the evening with a comedy instead – just to be safe.

Mike Adams is a freelance writer for High Times, Cannabis Now, and Forbes.