Over 58 percent of people who work night shifts have irregular sleeping patterns, indulge in substance abuse and are found to suffer from sleep paralysis.
In this condition, even though a person is wide awake, he is not able to breathe or move his limbs. Such episodes are common among teenagers and young adults, but there have also been reports of cases among elderly citizens.
Some cases have also been reported from boys’ hostels in the city, which have led parents to believe that their children were possessed by paranormal forces.
Dr. Srinivas P. a senior sleep surgeon, explained, “Sleep paralysis is a temporary condition where the person is not able to move or speak, but is fully awake. It’s a terribly scary situation and often the patient gets very frightened as he is not able to understand what is happening to him. Some patients find that they are unable to breathe; they know that they are fully awake, but they can’t inhale. The episode lasts for only a few seconds in most cases, or a few minutes, but the patient is left totally shaken.”
The problem with sleep paralysis is that patients often do not approach a sleep clinic immediately; instead they consult regular medical practitioners or quacks.
Dr Praveen C., a senior sleep surgeon, said, “It is very tricky for a general physician to diagnose this condition, because the patient appears absolutely normal. The episode lasts only for a few minutes, and no signs or symptoms that could lead the physician to suspect sleep paralysis persist. Often, patients go to quacks and only when they experience repeated episodes do they come to the right set up and get diagnosed properly.”
Sleep problems in India are more common due to the due to the shape of the body. Upper airways may sometimes get blocked due to the shape of the skeleton.
Dr Srinivas Kishore, a senior sleep specialist, said, “The space for air is restricted due to the small passageway. This is one of the major reasons for increasing sleep problems, apart from other factors such as obesity and diabetes.”