Insomnia is the inability to sleep. There are two types of insomnia: primary insomnia and secundary insomnia. Insomnia can be a painful condition considering that it disrupts a person’s sleep and as a result it will be tired and lethargic the next morning.
However, there is an extremely dangerous and aggressive type of insomnia that involves not only suffering, but can be even fatal. This type of insomnia is called sporadic fatal insomnia.
2. What is sporadic fatal insomnia?
Sporadic fatal insomnia is a type of insomnia that is not caused by stress, diet, lifestyle changes, medication, etc., but is caused by a body protein called ‘prion’.
The prion is an abnormal protein (modified) affecting a specific area of the brain, namely the thalamus. Thalamus is the function that influences an individual’s sleep. The link between sporadic fatal insomnia and mad cow disease is that both are caused by the same abnormal protein.
3. The nightmare of a sporadic fatal insomnia
Sporadic fatal insomnia worsens as his progression. The disease is extremely rare and aggressive and it shows in a very early stage in people aged between 40 and 60 years. It seems that the disease often occurs in members of the same family, which demonstrates that it can be transmitted genetically. Those who suffer from this condition manifest occasional problems falling asleep, for the start. As sporadic fatal insomnia progresses, the individual loses the ability to sleep. This inability is real and, only in some happy situations, the patient sleeps only one hour each night.
Other symptoms include involuntary muscle movements, heart rate and dementia. In addition, the individual loses control lacrimal ducts, often ‘crying’ unwittingly. The next stage of the disease affects short-term memory and the patient becomes unable to realize which thoughts are real and which are unrealistic. Then the individual is completely confused.
All cases of sporadic fatal insomnia resulted in death, in a period of 1-3 years after onset. Fortunately, this condition occurs very rarely. Currently, there is no known cure for sporadic fatal insomnia.
4. Symptoms of sporadic fatal insomnia
Fatal insomnia is a confusing condition because its symptoms resemble those of many common diseases (dementia, encephalitis, end-stage alcoholism). The main symptom of this disorder is the inability to sleep that causes elevated pulse and blood pressure, sweating and loss of coordinating capacity and motor skills.
The disease has four stages of development:
- Unexplained sudden onset of insomnia that cause panic attacks and groundless phobias – takes about four months;
- Sleep deprivation, panic attacks, severe hallucinations – takes about five months;
- Total insomnia that causes rapid weight loss and limited mental functioning – takes about three months;
- Dementia and lack of reaction – lasts up to six months.