A new year goes by and you want a fresh clean start in your life. If you are like me and your life revolves around a digital window, dusting your data is as critical as tossing out those unpaired socks you kept for hopeless wishful thinking. But among the lonesome socks and research papers from uni, one large file stood out fastidiously.
My bachelor thesis. That one project that made me laugh and cry, that kept me up for many nights, selfishly stealing my already hopeless social life, and up to today still makes me cringe knowing how little I have uncovered the deeper I went in. And so, instead of closing that chapter of my life, I decided to extend the book a few more. See this an act of giving back to the community, for the freedom of information, and to stop others from reinventing the wheel allowing you to build on my research.
Over the next several weeks I will compile a small wiki of SUNDS here on my blog. I will section my thesis into different subcatagories such as genetics, nutrition, contagion, culture & society, and epidemiology so the reader can view SUNDS through several different lenses. Pooling in as much information as I can, constantly updating information, and hopefully getting feedback from the internet community will be the best way to bring SUNDS back into the spotlight.
To start off this week…the abstract:
Characterized by sleep paralysis and an unpredictable heart attack during nocturnal sleep, Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SUNDS) remains one of the leading causes of death in young males in Thailand and Laos. The prevalence of the syndrome is 20 times more likely among men than it is in women, and the observed mean age of SUNDS victim is found to be 35. The implications of this occurence is very concerning as young male members of South East Asian (SEA) societies often carry important social responsibilities and their demise results into great financial and emotional burdens to their family and the country’s economy. According to several epidemiological studies so far, SUNDS has been suggested to relate to a variety of factors including inheritance, nutrition, stress (hormones), infection, and temperature. Yet, no actual causal mechanisms have been found and thus no means of protective interventions suggested. Furthermore, people of a lower socioeconomic class apparently are at highest risk of SUNDS.
Due to its geographical remoteness, SUNDS is not familiar to many physicians and scientists worldwide and the literature published in the western world is very limited. Paradoxically, local populations of SEA are well aware of this phenomenon and it is taught through various beliefs influenced by their respective culture and religion. The lack of adequate scientific explanations and effective treatments for SUNDS further reinforces the cultural beliefs among the local population who have no choice but to resort to superstitions in order to comfort their losses and rationalise their reality.
In Thailand and Laos, SUNDS is described as nightmarish attack by a widow ghost who only seeks to claim the spirit of healthy young men. In many high impact countries, it comes as no surprise that these beliefs prevail as more men become affected and when a decent medical explanation cannot be addressed.
To better contextualize this disorder, there is a compelling need for a comprehensive understanding of the underlying social-environmental and health-related factors before one can fully illuminate the causal pathways. With the objective to identify the complex relations between socio-environmental and biological factors, this paper will aim to describe SUNDS through an ecological perspective with regards to the dominant beliefs and religion of the Thailand and Laos. Genetic risks associated with SUNDS will be taken into account alongside cultural, environmental and other dispositional factors in order to better contextualize the existence of SUNDS.