AP Story: The Return of Sudden Death in Nepali Workers

nepal

A young wife in Nepal cries as she leans on the coffin of her 26 year-old husband, a migrant worker who died in his sleep in Qatar. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha) Source.

In December, an AP reporter named Martha Mendoza called me to ask about a blogpost I’d written about a phenomenon called SUDS (Sudden Unexplained Death During Sleep) that occurred in Southeast Asian refugees. Apparently, the story was published in December, but I didn’t know it until a Nepali official in Saudi Arabia contacted me about it, as he was concerned about young migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States who were dying in fairly high numbers there.

I originally wrote “Killer Ghosts & Broken Hearts: The Mystery of Sudden Unexplained Death in Sleep in Asian Men” way back in 2010, and it’s been one of the more widely read posts on this site. I think the reason for that is because it’s hard to find accessible information on SUDS, and because there are still many people in Asia who are worried about it (particularly, it seems, in the Philippines). 

My interests in the topic started simply from having Hmong, Lao, and Khmer friends in college who told me they had been attacked by ghosts at nighttime. By the time I got to graduate school, I ended up looking at the culture and biology of this in Andrea Wiley’s class on Medical Anthropology, and whether it was connected to SUDS. I almost pursued the topic for my dissertation, but was advised that it would probably be a dead-end because there weren’t as many fatal cases by that time. 

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