Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SUNDS) was identified as an epidemic in the early 1980’s after many healthy male Hmong immigrants fled Communist Laos and began mysteriously dying in their sleep. These odd nocturnal deaths became that leading cause of death among healthy male Hmong immigrants who fled to the United States.
The Hmong people believed that the deaths were being caused by an ancient demon named dab tsog. The dab tsog was known to dwell in caves but would leave the caves at night to steal people’s souls by sitting on their chests and suffocating them while they sleep. This frightening experience is known as the tsog tsuam. The Hmong community believed that the only way to stop this horrible experience was through a ritual conducted by a shaman.
There is a similar experience known to Southeast Asia. In the Phillipines, this evil demon experience is known as Bangungut. While I was living in Hawaii, I learned of this epidemic from a Fillipino family whom reportedly lost a male relative to the experience. They believed that SUNDS was responsible for killing thousands of lives since it was identified in the Phillipines in 1917. I am told that the term Bangungut means “nightmare” or “rise up loudly”. The Hawaiians refer to this phenomenon as a “Dream Disease” and it is believed to attack those of Fillipino ancestry. I found several common themes among the different cultures. Each person I spoke with reported that the experience involved sleep paralysis, a heavy weight sensation on the chest from an evil presence. It is believed that if the person is not woken during the experience, then they would die.
These occurrences seem to have many similar characteristics to the phenomena known as sleep paralysis. Unfortunately, I have experienced sleep paralysis on several occasions. It is not a pleasant experience.