Bangungot: Causes and The Science Behind This

What is bangungot? Why do people experience this?

BANGUNGOT – A common belief in the Philippines is to not eat when your stomach is full and this is because of a superstition.

What is bangungot?

This is actually not exclusive to the Philippines. It also happens in other countries but is called on different names. It is lai tai in Japan and pokkuri in Japan. This conditions happens with similar instances such as dying in deep sleep.


In the Philippines, according to the superstition, this could happen when a person sleeps on a full stomach. According to the tales, a person who suffers from this rises and moans or bangon and ungol. These two terms is where the term bangungot has been coined.

What happens in the dream that causes the death? It a really bad dream or like a nightmare.

A nightmare is caused by the following:

  • watching or reading something scary
  • sleep deprivation
  • eating right before bed
  • medication side effects
  • having a fever or being ill
  • sleep disorders

How about for bangungot? What are the possible causes? Medically, experts referred it as it as sudden and unexplained death in sleep (SUDS). One of the most probable causes is Acute Hemorrhagic Pancreatitis, one of the two categories of pancreatitis.

The acute pancreatitis (AP) is an inflammation of the pancreas that happens suddenly and quickly to which, in some cases, could be fatal. The swelling happens unexpectedly, a life-threatening situation than can lead to necrosis or tissue death and multi-organ failure due to sepsis.

Tips to Prevent Acute Hemorrhagic Pancreatitis

  • Avoid excessive alcohol drinking.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Practice mindful eating.
  • Treat your gallstones.
  • Have an active lifestyle.

In the Philippines, one of the most famous personalities who have suffered from suspected bangungot and died is the ’90s heartthrob Rico Yan. He was discovered lifeless in his hotel room in Palawan. He was just 27 years old and was at the peak of his fame and supposedly in good health when this happened. The reported cause of his death was acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis.

What can you say about this? Let us know in the comments!

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