Local study links stress, sleep disorders to load shedding

Though residents may infrequently thank the stars that power cuts are no longer the 12-hour nightmares they used to be, load shedding for six hours and more at the peak of summer create problems of their own, primarily triggering health disorders common in summer.

Power cuts during the summer months have aggravated common symptoms typical of summer, particularly muscle cramps and headaches, says a city-based medico.

A recent short study on psychological impact of power cuts on people in Thuvakudi directly links power cuts to increased complaints of headaches, sleep disorders, and mental stress. The study was carried out by Shinto James, a social work research scholar from Holy Cross College.

Though the study worked with a limited sample size of 60, the results are fairly representative of the circumstances in Tiruchi and to a certain extent, Tamil Nadu, with the exception of Chennai. Thuvakudi was chosen for its composition of schools, colleges, small and large scale industries. Respondents included students, teachers, parents, and factory workers.

Triggering stress and anxiety

More than 80 per cent of general respondents said power cuts disturbed their routine and affected their income; respondents included those dependent on farming. Up to 90 per cent of factory workers and owners interviewed held power outages as responsible for increased mental stress. This could be attributed to fall in production and economic loss, often a result of inability to complete assigned work due to load shedding. While only 20 per cent of general respondents had admitted to character changes, at least 70 per cent agreed that headaches and irritation were common experiences triggered by power cuts. Increased swearing, irritation and snapping at family and co-workers were among noticeable temperament changes reported.

Concentration and marks dip

The study portrayed that many school students did not understand the gravity of the power scenario but at least 60 per cent of the students agreed they used power cuts as a convenient excuse to escape academic work. At least 80 per cent of students said that the time for studying was inadequate, particularly during exams. They felt more pressurised and blamed power cuts for late submissions. While less than half the students in the study had noticed decline in their marks, at least 70 per cent of the teachers who participated in the study said marks had dipped as had concentration levels due to power cuts. Due to insufficient rest and lack of sleep, students were often caught dozing in class, teachers had noted. A slightly greater percentage of parents agreed power cuts had caught disruptions in sleep of their wards. Parents complained that children put off work using power cuts as a ruse and were unanimous in stating that stress levels had increased when they noticed children slacking on a regular basis. This often turned them cross with kids.

Increased fluid intake and ensuring cross ventilation in homes and a conscious effort to de-stress can keep headaches caused by fluid loss and stress at bay during summer, says M.A. Aleem, head, department of neurology, K.A.P. Viswanatham Government Medical College.