The other pandemic that’s keeping Indians awake

COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown is affecting the way Indians sleep. The repercussions are far-reaching and frightening.

It was sometime in 1916, in an Austria ravaged by World War I and living in the looming shadow of one of the world’s worst pandemics, that a neurophysiologist stumbled on the secret of sleep.

His name was Constantin von Economo, and he’d noticed an influx of patients with uncontrollable lethargy and abnormal muscle movements. It was the era of the Spanish flu (which started in 1916, not 1918 as believed) but that wasn’t the illness to blame. The patients von Economo observed at the Vienna General Hospital had unique symptoms: an overwhelming need for constant sleep that stretched to …


Roshni P. Nair

Roshni is a features writer and former editor of The Morning Context's Chaos team. Her career spans The Ken, Reuters, the Hindustan Times and DNA. She is a recipient of the UNFPA Laadli award and was shortlisted for the RedInk Awards 2016 for her story on Mumbai’s leprosy colonies. Her far-flung ideas would sometimes drive our editor-in-chief Ashish up the wall, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way (even if he didn’t admit it).