Beware! Your cabbie can be sleep deprived

We all travel by cabs regularly. Sometimes, we notice the driver in a confused state, agitated or irritated. But, you will be shocked to know that two taxi-drivers from Mumbai have posed a unique case to doctors about sleep deprivation

Driver fatigue

Today, sleep deprivation is one of the most commonly found problems. Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life. However, as a passenger, the last thing that one would want is to know the driver who’s sitting on the steering wheel hasn’t slept for 24 hours!

Pankaj Verma (name changed) 35-year-old private taxi company driver came to Dr Nilesh Shah with his family with a case of confusion. “Confusion in his case was such that he couldn’t understand anything – whether it was a day or night and so on. In medical terminology, it is called delirium. It is an acutely confused state of mind which is characterised by restlessness, illusions, and incoherence of speech,” said Dr Shah, Head of Psychiatry Department at Sion Hospital and LTMG Medical College.

In general cases, delirium is a symptom of alcohol withdrawal but Pankaj didn’t have any history of alcoholism or any such vices. “We hospitalised him for four days and found that the company had put up a scheme wherein if drivers could finish 70 hours of driving in a week’s time, they could be paid extra. Pankaj had loans to pay back so he tried driving without sleeping for more than 24-hours with just a break of an hour,” added Dr Shah.

City doctors say they are seeing a lot of drivers coming up with this issue everywhere and that sleep deprivation is a real problem. “Sleep is very important for bodily as well as cognitive functioning. About a month ago, I also got a similar. This could be really risky for the driver as well as the passenger,” said Dr Sagar Karia, senior psychiatrist and secretary of Bombay Psychiatric Society.