By Anupum Pant
In my very first article on this website, I talked about a 17-year-old boy, Randy Gardner who remained awake for an incredible 11 days and set a world record which no one had beat for a very long time. And then, in the 90s, Toimi Soini, of Hamina, Finland, set a new record of 276 hours of sleeplessness.
Well, no one should even try to beat it because depriving yourself of sleep can have some serious health issues and can even kill you. The seriousness of health consequences associated with such attempts is the reason that these records are no longer recorded in the Guinness books.
Not always do people decide to voluntarily break sleeplessness records. Some times, they can be the victims of a horrific and an extremely rare disease called fatal familial insomnia (FFI) – A progressively worsening form of insomnia discovered only 10-15 years ago. When it affects someone, the person starts having bouts of insomnia at first and then they aren’t able to sleep at all. Hallucinations, delirium, and confusional states occur and a person usually dies within 18 months from the first insomnia.
The disease is caused due to a defective gene and the people having it start seeing symptoms from the age of 30 (never at an early age). It has been believed to have originated from an Italian man in the year 1765 (not necessarily).
Symptoms in detail
- For the first four months there is an onset of insomnia and the person starts getting panic attacks and unfounded phobias.
- For the the next 5 months the hallucinations become severe.
- In the next 3 months, rapid weight loss and serious deterioration of mental ability happens,
- Next comes dementia, unresponsiveness, and may be death.
Here’s a 10 minute documentary which discusses FFI in detail.