The 10 Sure Signs Of The Body Shutting Down

Death is one of the most difficult parts of life. While it can happen instantly or naturally, depending on the circumstances, there is no easy way to deal with death. But, it can be comforting and help to relieve some of the fears of death if you know what to expect when it comes. If you’re facing death yourself or helping a loved one go through the natural process of death, knowing the signs of imminent death will help you.


​Make no mistake: natural death is a process. The body does not instantly shut off. It has its own process for shutting down slowly that will reveal some signs for you to see. Natural death involves the body and mind shutting down, with the body usually going first and the mind following shortly afterwards. I created this list to help you understand the dying process, so you can prepare for it yourself or know what to look for when the moment is coming for your loved one.

​1. Breathing Changes

​As bodily function slows down, fewer breaths are needed to pass oxygen through the body. The body also won’t be able to clear out the throat area anymore, so it will begin to have a build-up of phlegm. These two things will cause visible changes in the breathing patterns as well as audible changes in breathing. 

Many people refer to the loud, drawn out breaths as the “death rattle” because of the congested sound that can be heard. This is one of the surest signs that the body is close to shutting down.

2. Lower Blood Pressure

Blood pressure lowers as the body is shutting down. You may notice that the person’s pulse becomes slower and less pronounced. This is an earlier sign of death that starts near the beginning of the dying process and usually continues throughout it.

3. Confusion or Disorientation

As less blood flows to the brain, functions in different areas of the brain start to diminish. Often this leads to some memory loss and times of confusion. Sometimes the dying person won’t recognize people they know or won’t be able to speak intelligibly.

It’s possible they will have moments of clarity and alertness at some point during the body shutdown, but these might not last long or may not happen at all for some people.

4. Withdrawing Socially

Social withdrawal is a common part of the process of the body shutting down, although it doesn’t always last for long. Many people will become disinterested in conversation, stop responding, or will turn away from you as they get closer to death.

It’s best to stay with them, even during this time and not to let this deter you from comforting the person. Remember that they are in an unfamiliar place in life and may need your support and love more than ever before to guide them on their next journey in life.

5. Loss of Bladder Control

Kidney failure and loss of bladder control are two things that commonly happen when death is near. As the body shuts down, the vital organs like the kidneys start to lose their function. The person may not even know it’s happening and will almost never have any control over it even if they are aware.

6. Skin Color Changes

As blood circulation and blood pressure change, it’s possible to see changes in the skin color as the temperature of the body as well. Usually skin will become lighter or blotchy, and hands and feet will feel colder than usual. It’s not uncommon for there to be discoloration around the body in areas such as the feet, legs, arms, or hands that are experiencing less than usual circulation.

Most of the blood in the body is being drawn to internal organs as they are beginning to fail and is being drawn away from the smaller appendages of the body.

7. Tiredness and Excessive Sleep

Drowsiness is common with those going through the natural death process. Often the person will sleep more than they are awake, and they will not be easily roused from their sleep. Waking someone up who is in this state of sleepiness won’t always cause them to be alert, and sometimes they will be impossible to wake up until they do so on their own again.

8. Weak Movements

Low circulation and slower breathing will affect the person’s ability to move. Later on in the process, as muscles begin to shut down, they may not be able to lift their hands or move their hands more than a few inches at a time. This weakness should be expected, and it’s important that there is someone there to help the person get as comfortable as possible.

9. Appetite Diminishes

Early on in the process of dying, the person is likely not to want to eat much. Bland, easy to digest foods are most appealing at this time, but it’s also not uncommon for no food to be consumed at all for long periods of time. It’s still a good idea to encourage drinking water or ingesting some form of liquid to prevent the discomfort of dehydration.

10. Pain

As systems are shutting down, pain may be present in the person’s body. This can be eased with proper medical pain control, which many hospitals and hospice centers will offer to dying patients. There is no pain to stop the pain, as it is another inevitable part of the process, but easing the pain can make the dying process better and more comfortable for the person.


It’s not an easy thing to watch someone go through the process of natural death, but it can help you to prepare yourself if you know what the signs of the body shutting down are. This will let you have a warning when death is imminent and when you need to be ready to face it soon.

If you have any questions or would like to know anything else about this list, I would love the chance to talk with you in the comments below.

Anna Smith

Hi there ! I’m Anna Smith, chief editor at Healthankering. I'm a proud mother of three passionate about health tips, beauty and ways to live healthier with more energy ! We start Healthankering to provide advanced material about not only the best ways to get healthy, but also to entertain and create a great community. Welcome aboard !

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