(HealthDay News) — Prone sleeping may boost risk of sudden death in epilepsy, with higher risk for patients <40 years of age, new research suggests. The findings were published online January 21 in Neurology.

James Tao, MD, PhD, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Chicago, and colleagues reviewed 25 previously published studies that detailed 253 sudden, unexplained deaths of epilepsy patients for whom information was available on body position at time of death.

The researchers found that 73% of the patients died while sleeping in a prone position. In a subgroup of 88 cases, those <40 years of age were four times more likely to have died in a prone sleeping position than the older people. In all, 86% of those <40 years of age and 60% of those >40 years of age were prone when found dead.

Based on the findings, people with epilepsy should not sleep in a prone position, Tao told HealthDay. People with epilepsy should try to sleep on their side or back and ask their bed partner to remind them. Using wrist watches and bed alarms designed to detect seizures during sleep may also help prevent sudden death, he said.

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