I think we can all admit that dying is not the most exciting thing to think about. We all know that it happens to everyone one day, but that doesn't mean we like to think about the actual mechanics of it. That is, until today.
When you think about death, a lot of people tend to only discuss the afterlife, and what happens to your spirit after you pass. But scientifically, your body goes through a whole other ordeal.
As creepy as it is, there's a lot of interesting changes in your body after you stop breathing. So brace yourself, because we've got all the answers for you.
First of all, yes, you will urinate and defecate
Sorry to say it, but it happens to most people. Urinating and defecating happens because finally your body relaxes all the muscles in your body and releases any of the waste it has been holding on to.
It's not pleasant, sure, but it happens to everyone so you don't need to worry too much.
After that, your body will tense up
Rigor mortis sets in after death, causing all of the muscles to contract and stiffen. Forensic pathologist Judy Melinek says it's caused when your body runs out of a certain chemical.
"Rigor mortis, or stiffening of the muscles after death, occurs from depletion of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical in our muscles necessary for relaxation of the muscle fibers after a contraction," she said. "ATP is produced metabolically by muscle cells and forces your muscle’s contractile units to disengage. When you stop breathing, your cells stop producing ATP. The microscopic fibers lock up, and your muscles stiffen.”
It usually starts in your face in the first four hours after death, and reaches your larger muscles within twelve hours.
Your muscles won't start to relax again until a few days later when they start to decompose.
People think hair and nails keep growing, but that's not what's happening
A lot of people seem to think that nails and hair keep getting longer even though someone has died days before, but what's actually happening is that their skin is drying up, and shrinks back.
Whether it's pulling back from the cuticles, or away from the hair follicles, it makes it appear that nails and hair have grown when it has not.
But eventually your skin will look smoother
I know a lot of people are worried about wrinkles, but the truth is, after you die your skin becomes much smoother. Those lines in your forehead suddenly seem smooth, and you look like you never were stressed a day in your life.
This happens because all the tension in your muscles releases, so your face isn't contorting with your stress anymore.
Your skin does tend to get discolored though
The problem is, gravity tends to pull all your blood down, and over time it thickens. As this thick blood lays stagnant in your body, it stains the skin.
It's a process known as livor mortis, and after twelve hours, a clear and permanent change in color will be very apparent where the blood pools. It's called the "postmotem stain."
Your temperature drops
In the first hour after you die, your body will drop in temperature drastically. It's known as the "death chill" or algor mortis.
Your body drops two degrees in the first hour, and another degree every hour after until it reaches the ambient temperature of its surroundings.
However, your brain takes a few minutes to die
There are two types of death, cardiac death and brain death. Brain death occurs when the brain is the first organ to stop, while cardiac death is when the heart stops first.
Cardiac deaths are far more likely, but the concerning thing about that is that when your heart dies first, your brain actually stays alive for up to 10 minutes.
Scientists discovered that your brain seems to still be alive for a while, meaning that there's a chance you may realize you're dying. It's obviously a little bit hard to know for sure though.
You might still moan or groan
As your body is moved around, the air left in your lungs escapes. When that air rushes past your vocal chords, it may cause dome noises like a moan, groan, or sigh. There is also a chance that you may pass gas.
These little noises are perfectly normal, but understandably creepy.
The smell is there for a reason
The reason that people start to smell after they die is because bacteria and fungi take over the body, releasing gases and odors as the cells die.
Also, the bacteria that digest your food in your stomach realize that they have the run of your body and as they travel around, the body starts to smell. They start by digesting the intestines and then go on from there.
You'll decompose faster than you would think
You may think that your body will remain intact for a while after your death, but maggots are fast.
Apparently they can consume about 60% of your body within one week after you're buried. Scientists say it can take as little as four months for your body to rot into a literal skeleton.