Three-year-old boy has never slept; parents maintain 24-hour vigil

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118 Responses to “Three-year-old boy has never slept; parents maintain 24-hour vigil”

  1. buddy66 says:

    You guys are really gonna hafta learn the difference between ‘discreet’ and ‘discrete.’

  2. takeshi says:

    “All evolutionary leaps occur instantaneously. ”

    Um, not really. So, you’ve witnessed it firsthand, eh? Evolutionary processes are complicated, kiddo. Without question, they are the result of (mostly) random mutations. But if you believe that Homo sapiens were “instantaneously” born of gracile australopithecines, you are mistaken.

    “But reptiles did have that happen. So the likelihood of such a grand evolutionary change is 100%. Not for humans perhaps, but for some organisms.”

    I never said that it was impossible; only highly doubtful that a human would be born with that inherent capability. Of course, if a human being was born with such advantages, he would no longer be regarded as human. So, really, the chances are 0%. And no, lizards did not become birds (or even flying lizards) overnight. Sorry to burst your bubble.

    “You are arguing against history, against science and against evolution.”

    No, I’m not. And even if I was, I would not be doing so merely because you say I am. I have rather a firm grasp of evolution, but your insistence that it is merely a collection of random mutations, with no discernible connection aside from the fact that some of the mutations happen (totally by chance, of course) to be advantageous, only further illustrates your own misunderstanding.

    You seem to be suggesting that certain spiders have learned to mimic the scent of a male mayfly completely by accident. You must concede that doing so means that more pregnant female mayflies will end up in the spider’s web, with greater nutritive content. Do you really believe that it was all by chance? That conditions of the spider’s appetite or need for nutrients didn’t assist in the cultivation of such a drastic change? You just don’t know, and neither do I. But what I do know about evolution is that we have had a hand in it, even consciously to some extent.

    And I also know that a kid surviving three years without any sleep is impossible. For now, at least. In spite of your unflinching obstinateness, it is not less likely than bipedalism, becoming aquatic, or developing flight. None of those things are immediately necessary to a species’ survival; only advantageous. To be fair, though, I’ll bet the chances are roughly the same.

  3. Antinous says:

    Oops.

  4. Antinous says:

    Now you’re openly arguing Intelligent Design.

  5. takeshi says:

    “Once you’ve seen a few eight-limbed babies, the idea of a possible minor change in brain chemistry just seems like not a big deal.”

    I’ve seen enough pictures of spider-babies to last ten lifetimes, thanks, but do indulge me: if it’s such a “minor change in brain chemistry,” why has it taken so long to occur? If it was so minor, we wouldn’t even be in disagreement.

  6. Takuan says:

    mmm, I’m inclined to think two zygotes fusing is far more likely than the myriad of changes needed for a No-Sleep (Tm) model human

  7. Antinous says:

    if it’s such a “minor change in brain chemistry,” why has it taken so long to occur?

    Well, I agree that the probability of any non-lethal mutation is tiny. However, we are currently exposed to large numbers of new mutagens due to the rise of the chemicals industry. I would expect to see a statistically significant increase in mutations. We’ve seen it in a number of other species. I don’t see why humans would be immune. It also strikes me that, if this is real, it would decrease survival chances in an individual for all the reasons that the parents have related. It might be a theoretical advantage in a species, but the transition might be impossible to make in nature. There could be current examples of this that aren’t documented, and there certainly could be historical examples that were never documented because pretty much nothing was documented. Most extraordinary claims are bogus, but not all.

  8. arkizzle says:

    Gruben:

    Reminds me of this guy:

    http://www.thanhniennews.com/features/?catid=10&newsid=12673

    He supposedly hasn’t sleep since 1973. Don’t know the validity of the article though.
    __

    This is from a follow up article (which has more details on him; being tested by 2 sets of reporters, etc) :

    In April, 2007, however, Ngoc reported that he was beginning to feel grumpy due to the lack of sleep.

    Haha, no shit :)

  9. buddy66 says:

    #52: “All evolutionary leaps occur instantaneously.”

    Bingo. The old Marxists used to call it the “transformation of quantity into quality,” or a “qualitative leap” (although an annoying number of people mistakenly use “quantum leap”). Who knows, for instance, how many years the pre-human sapiens brain was modified before that qualitative leap into the world of abstract symboling? But when it happened it must have been instantaneous and immediately selected. We don’t part-way or half-heartedly symbol; we do it all the way: We can arbitrarily bestow meaning or significance on things and events that cannot be perceived by the five senses (the ‘meaning,’ not the things or events). No other critter does this, not even those cuddly Bonobos or cute dolphins.

    All the maze-happy rat psychologists and Gorilla groupies in the world have been unable to find it anywhere else in Nature. It was a qualitative leap in brain functioning, and that has made all the difference.

    So why not a no-sleep genetic leap?

    @#37: That’s terrible. I hope Tarzan soon develops a ravenous appetite to match his name.

  10. Pipenta says:

    Spider? May fly? Could we be a little more specific, taxonomically?

    How about a link to the literature?

  11. Takuan says:

    Pipenta! Missed you.

  12. Takuan says:

    The Vietnamese story minds me of old KGB torture drugs. They injected prisoners with sedative/stimulant mixes so they could not sleep, nor sit still.

  13. Pipenta says:

    Hi Takuan! Kisses!

    About these spiders and these here ephemeroptera, I’m asking because that one doesn’t make sense to be, based on what I know.

    I don’t know much about spiders at all. And I probably only know enough about mayflies to get myself in trouble.

    First off, I had no idea that any mayflies used pheromones to attract mates. I had some idea that they swarmed, possibly using visual cues. And then I realized I was thinking of those mass emergences and you’d hardly need any kind of fancy cologne for a gal to find you in the middle of a swarm. They’re everywhere.

    Then I was thinking, hoo, pretty slim pickings for a spider to special in one particular species of mayfly. The adults aren’t out and about much. Most of the life cycle is spent as aquatic nymphs. Thos spiders who hunt underwater would be getting better meals. But if that niche is taken, a spider’s got to do what a spider’s got to do.

    Then of course I was thinking with a temperate zone mindset. How provincial of me. Most mayflies might be univoltine around here, but they’re sure to be multivoltine in the tropics. And I have no idea how often a spider has to eat. It might just go into some kind of diapause when the mayflies aren’t emerging, much like flyfishermen when the trout season is closed.

    So I don’t know what I can bring to the discussion, but I know what I’d like to take from it; I want to know the specifics (or, at the very least, the generics) of the spider and mayfly in question.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I found an official news site that has an explanation of why he can’t sleep. From the way they word things it looks like he CAN sleep but it’s very rare and never long enough, I’m guessing about 1 hours every few days or so. His brain was pinched down into his spinal column, effecting his sleep and other functions, but this case was primarily sleep. They did surgery on him to relieve the pressure. It didn’t say anything on the outcome, if it worked or noot.

  15. arkizzle says:

    Here’s a link to a really interesting New Scientist article about the drug modafinil, and the race for ‘sleepless’ humans.

    Also, Takashi:

    You seem to be suggesting that certain spiders have learned to mimic the scent of a male mayfly completely by accident.

    Do you really believe that it was all by chance?

    I’m afraid I agree with Antinous here. It is not the “by accident” that you are suggesting, but it is certainly not motivated ‘consciously’ by either the animal, nor it’s genes.

    There is indeed a symbiosis between an animal and it’s food supply, but it’s the millions of years of environmental interactions that make these physical changes so finely tuned.

    Essentially, we can say that at some point, way back, the spider doesn’t eat mayflies. Over time, all the species in the spider’s domain (including the spider) slowly change as genes mutate and are spread amongst their individual pools. All the while, the spider is probably catching various things in it’s web, not just mayflies, but them also.

    At some point, slowly of course, but after a certain threshold of changes, the mayfly has adopted a scent it uses to mate. Similarly, the spider, at some point, maybe before, maybe after, gains some kind of scent gland that happens to smell a little bit like the mayfly sexy-smell.

    Now, no matter how weak the similarity between the spider smell and the fly smell, there is a minute advantage to that spider. Statistically, that spider will catch more mayflies, who happen to get fooled by the fugazi fragrance, than a spider who doesn’t possess that talent.

    Now, as that spider is a little bit better equipped (or even just better fed), she will likely breed more, and pass those genes on.

    Eventually, each successive generation of spider is selected (by the mayfly’s interest in the smell) for the best ‘smell’ talent, so the spider and mayfly become profoundly linked. The fly choosing the most closely smell-tuned members of the spider-species – each generation – by doing it the service of flying into it’s web and providing a meal, essentially breeding it’s own demise, by voting for better rogues each round.

    So, an animal doesn’t select it’s own future form, it’s environment does (predators, prey, weather), but not consciously, only by interactions (being food, being prey, being rained on).

  16. arkizzle says:

    Pip, I’m not sure about any of the specifics that were mentioned about the mayfly and the spider, I was simply describing how the finely tuned symbiosis between (any) predator and prey may have come about, in the examples given by Takeshi.

    I’m not sure there was particular substance to his example, or if Takeshi was just having a lay-conversation, about ideas rather than concrete species.. maybe so though, we’ll see what he says :)

  17. Nelson.C says:

    First off: Chiari malformation. It’s there in the link that Mark posted originally, and that Tenn looked up for us, way back in comment #11. It isn’t an evolutionary leap, it isn’t a tweak to brain chemistry, it’s a malformation of the skull, which the surgery is supposed to correct.

    So, if you’re going to tie yourselves and each other up in knots over the next stage in slan, sorry, human evolution, just acknowledge that it has nothing to do with this child, will you?

    Second off, speciation doesn’t happen overnight. Evolution occurs with every damned one of us, every generation, with an average of 10 mutations per person born. (Or four mutations, estimates vary.) Except when it doesn’t, because most mutations are neutral and are neither selected for or against.

    Thirdly, the amount of sleep varies from species to species, but the need for some sleep is universal. It seems to be wired into our brains and bodies at a deep level; there ain’t no way that one single change to brain chemistry is going to eliminate the need for sleep. The chances are heavily stacked towards it happening already and being detected, if it was a simple change in brain chemistry. A complicated change in biochemistry is less likely to be healthy. Cthulhu knows, it’s easy enough to fuck a human brain up completely with single simple changes in biochemistry, or developmental glitches, but not so easy to fix.

    Eight-limbed babies can be a result of a simple mutation in the ancient homeobox genes that regulate body development for most multicellular organisms, the genetic equivalent of an instruction to grow four limbs being followed twice. (Note that the extra limbs rarely if ever fit well in the skeletal structure.) As far as anyone can tell, there is no equivalent simple switch in the brain, or the developmental genes for the brain, for requiring no sleep. Nancy Kress notwithstanding, it’s going to take a lot of genetic engineering to make a sleepless human who otherwise develops normally. It’s unlikely to the point of impossible that it’s going to pop up in one lucky mutant child without some hints of other effects showing up in previous generations.

    Now, quit yer yellin’, you damn kids, and get orf my lawn!

  18. arkizzle says:

    Whoa, I’ll just excuse myself here by saying my post above is only about evolutionary theory, and not in support of the sleep-hating devil child, being the latest thing in human genetics.

    Also, Nelson, take a look at the article I linked to in my post above, it’ s very interesting.

  19. scottfree says:

    buddy66

    I think I object to that, as a ‘Gorilla groupie’. I think there is ample evidence that chimpanzees and gorillas understand symbols, including parts of speech other then nouns; dogs understand how to spell W-A-L-K, for christ sake, the meaning, not the thing or event [the fact that they /expect/ the event indicates an understanding of meaning]. It is no so far evident they understand grammar. A chimp stops learning at about the stage of language acquisition of a five year old person. It is arguable but not generally accepted that chimps understand grammar as well. I would really like to see these experiments done with dolphins; i bet the results would be /awesome/, and would contribute to my dream of one day becoming Aquaman.

    But as far as the sleep debate is concerned, we /know/ for a fact that sleep is vital to survival, and I doubt it would be a matter of one mutation, but several. Brains are insanely complicated, and I bet it would be like fairy lihts: if one goes out, they all will go out; change or rearrange two neurons, and you got a dead baby. Since sleep is in all probably multi-functional, I think it would take too many mutations to happen all in one go; which isn’t to say that it couldn’t be a matter of a few mutations happening every generation in his family, but that it is very very very very very very unlikely. It is much more likely, in my opinion the child is achieving stage one or stage two sleep, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the data available. If it really wasn’t sleeping at all, a sure sign would be its diet: active for an extra third of the day would equal an extra third of calorie intake. Also, I wonder what the possibilities of infantile somnambulism are. That would be pretty cool.

    I have hallucinations after just one sleepless night, as I regularly suffer from insomnia for a few days at a time, especially before traveling. Not sleeping = not fun.

  20. Antinous says:

    My argument actually is simply that, no matter what is posted on BB, somebody comes in and says. “I don’t believe it. It can’t possibly be true.” Only, occasionally those super-duper improbable things really are true.

  21. takeshi says:

    @ Antinous:

    “Now you’re openly arguing Intelligent Design.”

    No, I’m not. I’m not the first one you’ve pulled that one out on, either. What you are saying, in no uncertain terms, is that anyone who disagrees with you is arguing Intelligent Design. Hogwash, and most transparent.

    What I am saying is that the evolution of a lizard into a bird was very likely a multi-tiered process. Or are you suggesting that a lizard was born with wings, but also miraculously had hollow bones enabling him to lift off? The chances of it occurring that way are slim to none.

    More likely is the situation in which the lizard was born with one or the other feature, and eventually through trial and error the other came along. It is not as if the lizard’s DNA was conscious, having an understanding of the relationship between weight, wings, and flight. If anything, it seems that you are the one ascribing an improbable intelligence to an evolutionary progress that you simultaneously attest is totally random.

    Likewise, it is equally improbable that a spider could suddenly mimic the mating scent of one of its prey, and more specifically one so close to home. Even if it did, how easily do you suppose the spider or its DNA arrived at the conclusion that the scent was what attracted juicy female mayflies to its web in the first place?

    Again, such an event would suggest some element of intelligence, but like you I am given to think that random particulars are of the essence. Unlike you, however, I realize that it is more likely that some suggestive qualities exist, inflating the chances of such phenomena occurring to the organism’s advantage.

    “Well, I agree that the probability of any non-lethal mutation is tiny. ”

    Non-lethal mutations happen all the time. Still, that doesn’t mean that this kind of change would occur “instantaneously.” Whether it’s been documented makes little difference. It’s a preposterous and mostly indefensible assumption to make that a human being could go without sleep indefinitely. It would not be a simple change in chemical processes, as you have suggested. It would require a physiological alteration, with neurochemical results.

    “However, we are currently exposed to large numbers of new mutagens due to the rise of the chemicals industry. I would expect to see a statistically significant increase in mutations. We’ve seen it in a number of other species. I don’t see why humans would be immune.”

    Of course we’re not immune, but it’s mathematically inconceivable that the kind of mutation you’re talking about would happily coincide with the unfortunate medical situation described in the article. I agree that it’s possible, theoretically, but it’s loony. One thing we know for certain is that sleep helps the human brain to stay healthy, or rather that a lack of sleep causes death. That much is simply irrefutable.

  22. soupisgoodfood says:

    “A child surviving without sleep for three years is every bit as impossible as the same child surviving without water for three months. It just can’t happen… sorry.”

    OK, now I agree that it’s unlikely, but to say it’s impossible is pretty stupid. Since we are trying to be scientific here, you don’t know it’s not impossible, so you shouldn’t use that word. Call it extremely unlikely, and leave it at that. Otherwise, you are a discredit to your supposed scientific values.

  23. takeshi says:

    @ ARKIZZLE:

    I should’ve been more specific. I wasn’t saying that the spider consciously made an effort to adapt, but instead that we have. At one time, human beings likely had flattened, snout-like noses, much like apes. Over centuries of diving for fish, the nose became downward-sloped to prevent drowning.

    Of course, we humans didn’t consciously decide to alter ourselves. I was using the term as a kind of shorthand, because I believe that we do have some say, however slight, in our evolutionary progress. One good example is that exposure to artificial light leads to increased, uninterrupted durations of sleep. I mention this because, although not a conscious decision, it is a technological development that has changed us neurochemically to some degree; not some explicit change that came about randomly.

    Yes, these are due to environmental changes, and human beings, more than any other species, have some control of their environments, as with the introduction of artificial light, better forms of shelter, increased levels of pollution, etc. Inasmuch, they have some detectable influence over their own evolutionary paths. A spider? Not so much. I would only suggest that we more fully investigate these happy accidents before stating with pseudo-authority that they’re all completely random.

  24. arkizzle says:

    Takeshi

    Even if it did, how easily do you suppose the spider or its DNA arrived at the conclusion that the scent was what attracted juicy female mayflies to its web in the first place?

    Please read (or reread) what I wrote to you above.

    The DNA didn’t arrive at any conclusion, the DNA has not stopped changing, it’s merely being selected (at this moment in time) for (amongst other things) it’s abilitiy to attract a cetain type of food more easily, because of a procedurally created propensity to smelling similarly to a mayfly in heat.

    There is no “element of intelligence”. There is only interaction, selection and time.

  25. Antinous says:

    You seem to be suggesting that certain spiders have learned to mimic the scent of a male mayfly completely by accident.

    Yes. Evolution is a series of accidents that turn out well.

    You must concede that doing so means that more pregnant female mayflies will end up in the spider’s web, with greater nutritive content. Do you really believe that it was all by chance?

    Yes. What is the alternative to chance?

    That conditions of the spider’s appetite or need for nutrients didn’t assist in the cultivation of such a drastic change?

    No. Mutations are random. When one is advantageous, it may stick around.

    You just don’t know, and neither do I. But what I do know about evolution is that we have had a hand in it, even consciously to some extent.

    If you’re talking about domesticated animals, we have altered some characteristics. But I don’t know that we have created anything that’s been designated as a new species or subspecies. Anyone know on this one?

    Our alteration of the natural environment has certainly contributed to the extinction of many species. I don’t know if that counts as having a hand in evolution.

    Are major evolutionary changes multi-tiered? yes. But they are not a continuum. Each step is essentially independent.

    Unlike you, however, I realize that it is more likely that some suggestive qualities exist, inflating the chances of such phenomena occurring to the organism’s advantage.

    I know that you think that you’re arguing evolution, but you’re not. You’re arguing ID. And, yes, I say it all the time because the vast majority of people asked to describe evolution give a definition that sounds more like Intelligent Design Lite.

    The giraffe does not evolve a long neck because it needs to reach the high-up leaves. A giraffe randomly evolves a long neck and lives to breed because it can reach the high-up leaves. There is no suggestive factor.

  26. Bookyloo says:

    Note a small but important change of wording in the post-surgery video: the reporter says “the little boy WHO HAS HARDLY SLEPT since the day he was born”…she doesn’t say “never” slept. I still bet I’m right: that he lapses into an open eyed sleep-like state occasionally, long enough to keep him from dying but not enough to live normally.

    I don’t think the family or the doctors are mis-led, I think this is engneered by the news organization.

    I think the news station saw the huge potential pageview difference between “LOCAL BOY SLEEPS VERY RARELY AND POORLY”, and “LOCAL BOY NEVER SLEEPS”. If they’d been scrupulously honest and gone for the former, there’d be no BB thread about it, now would there? All the news stories have been very brief and very, very vague about how exactly the malformation causes him to “not sleep”. I suspect that’s because a full explanation would make the condition seem far less freakish, and thus far less interesting.

  27. Justin Ried says:

    I was hoping they’d go into some detail about the case. Does this child exhibit symptoms typical of sleep deprivation in the same way other children do, or is he less affected? Does he ever get sleepy at all, but just can’t pass out?

    Imagine how tripped out he’s going to be the first time he has a dream.

  28. Jake0748 says:

    #105, Soup – Very well said. I admit that my first kneejerk reaction to the idea would be “it’s impossible”. But now that I think about it, I’m willing to settle for very, EXTREMELY unlikely.

  29. Carlos says:

    I’d love to know more from the doctors in the house how this poor kid’s been able to survive. My understanding that sleep deprivation kills a normal brain after 9-10 days. When I Googled this, I found there are claims that people have made it 18-20 days without shut-eye, but those haven’t been substantiated: the actual Guinness record is 11 days. Also discovered that there is something called “microsleep” that doesn’t help the parents too much but might explain how the little guy’s been able to make it. Like I said, I’d love to know more.

  30. takeshi says:

    @ ARKIZZLE:

    The quote you selected was written to Antinous, not you. I was being facetious. Of course DNA isn’t conscious. Hell, some scientists would argue that a creature at the cytogenic level of a spider can’t be conscious.

    I have never said that there is an element of intelligence to selection. Re-read what I wrote. I was saying that any belief that a spider could affect its evolutionary changes implies a level of intelligence that is simply not there. It is still possible that the spider’s DNA “regards” the trait as advantageous, but the spider itself hasn’t a clue.

    It does not alter my belief that some evolutionary changes are less random than others, a point with which you have already agreed.

  31. brainswarm says:

    They mention the disorder that keeps him from sleeping, and the effects it has on the parents, but they don’t mention the effect it has on the CHILD. They’re taking him in for experimental surgery to correct this “problem,” but they didn’t make the case for why he needs it. Will he die if he doesn’t get any sleep? Does it affect his mental functioning? Or are the parents just doing it for their own convenience? The article just doesn’t provide enough information.

  32. Keir says:

    “We share the night shift because no one can sleep in the house when he is up anyway.” Eh? I thought he was up all the time?

  33. arkizzle says:

    No, as far as I know, we have only been directly involved in breeds, not species. We have a single (as I recall, I will try to find the article) brand new species to our name, a bacterium if I remember right, but it was engineered, and I know that’s not what was being referred to.

    Other than those, I can only imagine (as Antinous suggested) that our changing of the environment may be ‘having a hand in evolution’, but that’s pretty indirect, and it certainly hasn’t been conscious either.

  34. demidan says:

    @83 Takeshi via Neko

    Conversation sounds like it’s turning into a Schrodinger’s cat scenario.

    I believe that Occam’s razor fits this story. It is more likely that the child has micro sleep episodes than no sleep at all. While evolution occurs with each and every new generation, the steps needed to “re-wire” the poor child’s brain would be near insurmountable.

  35. dugmartsch says:

    Great novels. I wonder how his learning is effected. I wonder what his development is like.

    Pretty lame story without any details/follow-up.

  36. Razzabeth says:

    Agree with #1 for want of details.

    He must be tripping balls already, considering that normally one who goes without sleep for even a couple weeks starts hallucinating. Probably has a whole gallery of imaginary friends.

    And he can’t go to sleep with medication? Put a bottle of Nyquil in the little bugger and see him stay awake after that.

  37. Chevan says:

    I wonder if he has any learning disabilities. Or does his brain do its daily upkeep while he’s still awake?

  38. arkizzle says:

    No, I think all changes are random, as Antinous said “When one is advantageous, it may stick around”.

    How do you suppose a change might be less random?

    It seems like it either is, or isn’t. Is there a theory behind what you are suggesting? Because it sounds like you are saying there must be some sort of ‘awareness of the game’ involved, but not fleshing it out. So if you have a mechanism in mind, I’m interested.

  39. Antinous says:

    Ark,

    I bequeath this thread to you.

  40. Inverse Square says:

    Th mthr wrks whl th fthr crs fr th chld?! N wndr h’s mntl!

    But seriously, Brainswarm? It’s not too much to ask for the “convinience” of sleep. However the extensive treatment negatively effects him, it’d be made up for with parents that could give him some actual attention.

  41. takeshi says:

    @ Antinous:

    “I know that you think that you’re arguing evolution, but you’re not. You’re arguing ID. ”

    Just because you keep repeating something does not make it true. Perhaps you think you’ve taken a page from Ed Bernay’s playbook, but you’re only kidding yourself.

    “But I don’t know that we have created anything that’s been designated as a new species or subspecies. Anyone know on this one?”

    Domesticated sheep, for one. There are others, too, but you can use the Internet. I think.

    “The giraffe does not evolve a long neck because it needs to reach the high-up leaves. A giraffe randomly evolves a long neck and lives to breed because it can reach the high-up leaves. There is no suggestive factor.”

    Who said anything about giraffes? You are arguing that, because no “suggestive factors” were present in the evolution of giraffes, such a thing can never happen in any species. Epic fail. Again, look to our own species, and you will see that technology can and does alter evolution. I would assume that other conditions would, as well. You’re the expert.

    “Yes. Evolution is a series of accidents that turn out well.”

    Unless they don’t. It might all blow up in our faces eventually. Who are any of us to say, really? Did evolution turn out well for the dinosaurs? You and I agree that these initial developments are chance operators. Yes, some traits stick around because they are useful, and somehow, amazingly, that seems considerably less accidental to me. Certain evolutionary features seem to support that notion, but I am certain that you will respectfully disagree.

  42. AGF says:

    In my first year of grad school I went for very long periods with no or very little sleep. I got terrible reviews and that summer, after having slept, I read some studies of sleep debt and realized that was my biggest problem.
    Of course because I didn’t sleep I can barely remember the year – or figure out how long I went without sleep. I do remember hallucinating and hearing things. The walls would bend and the floor would move. Basically it feels like your mind decides to dream while your still awake. I made bad decisions and didn’t make any sence. I also remember that if I hurt myself it would take a very long time to heal. I really hope the stuff about brain damage and personallity change aren’t true. I now try to get at least 6 hours a night no matter how much pressure I’m under. I can’t imagine how that kid must feel.

  43. homestarrunrun says:

    Doesn’t he just crash at uncertain times. I don’t see why they don’t give him Tylenol PM at least to slow him down.

  44. buddy66 says:

    #66, SCOTTFREE says: ‘I think there is ample evidence that chimpanzees and gorillas understand symbols[...]‘

    I do not use ‘symbol’ as it is used by the semiotics crowd. To immodestly quote myself: [To symbol is to] “arbitrarily bestow meaning or significance on things and events that cannot be perceived by the five senses….” The act of symboling, then, is humankind’s vaunted ability to create and employ abstract language. No other animal does this. We all know that animals can be taught signs, and famously are; but no animal can create signs, much less abstract symbols, although many people have sought evidence to the contrary.

    I freely use symbol as a verb, which is common in English.

  45. Antinous says:

    I read a study about six months ago that said that the further you diverge from seven hours per night, your life expectancy drops dramatically. I seem to remember that it was about ten years of life for every hour off the seven mark. But it wasn’t just less sleep that was a risk. It was more sleep as well. Unknown which is the cause and which is the effect.

  46. takeshi says:

    @ ARKIZZLE:

    “How do you suppose a change might be less random?”

    I have already given you an example. The fact that human beings’ sleep patterns are irrefutably altered by the introduction of artificial light, and that these changes can be perceived in infants whose parents were exposed to artificial light, means that external forces contribute to our evolution, and not necessarily entirely at random. You can say that it’s not evolution, but you’d be wrong.

    When humans began using artificial light, I’m sure that they weren’t conscious of the longstanding evolutionary effects it would have. Now that we do know, it stands to reason that we will make conscious efforts to alter our own evolution. Of course, we have begun to do that already. Similarly, we have consciously altered the evolution of other animals, creating new species entirely. And incidentally, speciation is an evolutionary process. When discussing the two, it is important to note.

    A square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle is only rarely a square.

  47. Tenn says:

    Bay News Article
    Apparently, it is effecting him badly with symptoms similar to autism.

    “Because one minute we don’t know if he’s going to be good or bad because of the mood he’s going to be in.”

    “With sleep deprivation it really starts messing with your mind,” Shannon said. “And a lot of behavioral issues he has once the sleep is taken care of we can start addressing the behavioral stuff.”

    Chiari Malformation

    Chiari malformations (CMs) are structural defects in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. When the indented bony space at the lower rear of the skull is smaller than normal, the cerebellum and brainstem can be pushed downward. The resulting pressure on the cerebellum can block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (the liquid that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord) and can cause a range of symptoms including dizziness, muscle weakness, numbness, vision problems, headache, and problems with balance and coordination. There are three primary types of CM. The most common is Type I, which may not cause symptoms and is often found by accident during an examination for another condition. Type II (also called Arnold-Chiari malformation) is usually accompanied by a myelomeningocele-a form of spina bifida that occurs when the spinal canal and backbone do not close before birth, causing the spinal cord to protrude through an opening in the back. This can cause partial or complete paralysis below the spinal opening. Type III is the most serious form of CM, and causes severe neurological defects. Other conditions sometimes associated with CM include hydrocephalus, syringomyelia, and spinal curvature.

    So it’s a pretty nasty disorder. Pity.

  48. arkizzle says:

    ANNN TIIII NOUUUSSSSS!!!!!!

    ..that wasn’t very christian at all.

    Buddy66: *tag*

    Haha! Your thread! *runs away*

  49. Cocoa says:

    There’s a video up now post-surgery. I haven’t managed to watch it yet – need flash player.

    http://www.baynews9.com/content/36/2008/5/8/346720.html?title=Rare+condition+doesn't+let+St.+Petersburg+kid+sleep++

  50. brainswarm says:

    Inverse Square, every parent whose child has some sort of disability has to make sacrifices to care for the child. My parents certainly did. What I’m asking is if the child is really worse off for not sleeping, (something the news report did not state,) or if the parents are sacrificing the health of the child for the ability to sleep through the night. Every surgery has risks, experimental surgeries even more so.

  51. Takuan says:

    this is unquestionably true. One of the worst bargains one can make is trading sleep and life for money. After the work is done, the money is gone anyway and the mirror shows the contract was two for one.

  52. Antinous says:

    Is that why I have hardly any wrinkles or gray hair at fifty? I’ve rarely had to wake up to an alarm in my adult life.

  53. chetoverton says:

    This article seems very suspect. There’s really not much info in the article, but with an arnold chiari malformation (what this kid has), respiratory symptoms like sleep apnea is common. I suspect that the kid does sleep but does not get long term, sustained sleep, waking up everytime he stops breathing in his sleep. As such, putting him to sleep with meds probably won’t do much to help him. Surgery is probably justified because the brain herniation can get worse over time and cause even more serious problems.

  54. Neko says:

    I don’t know why people are saying “You die if you don’t sleep; this kid is alive; therefore this kid has slept”.

    –You– die if –you– don’t sleep. This kid obviously has his brain wired up differently. How exactly, and what that implies, we don’t yet know.

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that ducks let one hemisphere sleep while the other one stays alert, and then they switch over. What if this boy has something similar going on? He might not appear to sleep, but part of him at any given time is resting. That might also account for the reported mood swings, though let’s not forget, he is a three year old after all.

    If he really is able to survive without sleep, I think the parents should at least consider trying to put up with him until he reaches maturity, rather then reflexively reaching for the scalpel. In evolutionary terms, he could adapt very well to our modern environment where no-one ever has enough time.

    Lack of sleep drives me crazy enough after three hours though, never mind three years…

  55. Brian Carnell says:

    There is an extraordinarily rare genetic disorder called fatal familial insomnia which leads to an inability to sleep and then death in about a year after initial symptoms for those who inherit the gene (though it tends to kick in later in life).

  56. Takuan says:

    no, that is a result of the altar you keep in the sub-basement.

  57. takeshi says:

    @ NEKO:

    “I don’t know why people are saying ‘You die if you don’t sleep; this kid is alive; therefore this kid has slept’.”

    Two reasons:

    1. Because you die if you don’t sleep.
    2. It is the only good explanation.

    I guess that’s only one reason, really.

  58. Antinous says:

    I like that one hemisphere theory. Very interesting.

    Ark,

    Yeah, I’m pretty much Satan’s spawn.

  59. Antinous says:

    Speaking of which, those sacrifices aren’t going to make themselves. Tomorrow.

  60. arkizzle says:

    Have you got any sources on what you say about us being genetically altered due to using artificial light? Have there been studies, where a baby borne of a mother and father who use lights, has been immediately transported to a completely different environment, with no artificail lights and had it’s sleeping patterns observed?

    Since lights have been with us consistently since we discovered fire, how would we know what was genetic and what was merely the result of us growing up artficial-light-normative?

    I genuinely didn’t know (and still don’t, frankly) that we had changed genetically through our use of technology, in anything other than a massively long-term way, like agriculture leading to better food and our health changing with different qualities of input, which still might not be genetic. Just a better localised environment probably.

  61. Blackbird says:

    http://tinyurl.com/3zu3qo
    Here’s the URL for the Bay News Article. It’s got some other info in it thats quite good.

    Since I’m not a doctor (I did play one on stage once though!) I’m curious why SLEEP DEPRIVATION isn’t a symptom of Chiari? This is a rare case BECAUSE it’s hitting this kid so hard (1 in 1000 births may have SOME form of this disorder).

    Homestarrunrun – I would assume before surgery they would have tried everything they could to get him better. But…then they run the risk of the meds doing something unexpected. Since there’s no real clinical study of this disease, any meds used would technically be ‘off label’ uses, if they are trying to cure it. Otherwise, your just treating symptoms, and the cause is still there.

    I would also make an assumption that he’s on some sort of anti-inflammatory drugs (to keep swelling down) and something like interferon or the like to drop the risk of infection (an infection with a disorder like this would almost literally choke off his spinal cord with pressure…think encephalitis on steroids).

    Surgery looks like the only way to relieve the pressure on his spinal column and ‘get the brain back in the bucket’. This seems to ‘basically’ be a hernia of the brain.

  62. Antinous says:

    How did you find one of my childhood snapshots?

  63. takeshi says:

    @ RAZZABETH:

    “He must be tripping balls already, considering that normally one who goes without sleep for even a couple weeks starts hallucinating.”

    Most anyone would start hallucinating within five days. In fact, it has not been proven that any human being can stay awake for two weeks. Thai Ngoc is said to have gone without sleep for more than 30 years, but this claim is unsubstantiated and has been disputed by countless neurophysiologists. Given what we know about sleep, it is almost certainly a fabrication.

    Sleep is among the most studied phenomena related to animal life. We have determined incontrovertibly that circadian rhythms affect the quality of sleep. We have also established that an undeniable relationship exists between prolonged exposure to artificial light and increased sleep durations. This report, however, comes from a TV station, not a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

  64. scottfree says:

    buddy66,

    If you look at Stephen Pinker, for instance, he says language is this this and this, and you reply animals can do this this or this, he tends to say, that’s not what he meant. Who can say what a dog means when it barks? Or what behaviour of a chimp is intended as communication? Just because these acts are unintelligible to people doesn’t make them devoid of meaning. As a very easily bored person, Ive paid close attention to vocalisations my cat makes and the context, and I cant figure anything out. I once regrettably pointed out to a linguistic professor at my university that animals don’t talk, to which she replied her dog talks to her, which sounds crazy, but I take her point. She would add that instead of trying to teach animals human language, people should better try to understand animal language, since clearly animals are doing ‘social’ things that have some sort of ‘social’ meaning. Language isn’t compatible with previous versions, apparently.

    It’s a very very interesting debate, and I regret I haven’t kept up to date on it. I think what can be said definitively is that no other species has as efficient a way of conveying information. But this is not the only, or even primary, use of language. It may as you say be a case of a quantitative change becoming a qualitative change, since it is clear that animals certainly have some degree of all uses of symbols, except Engels was talking out his arse when he said nature was dialectical. I would laugh so hard if that turned out to be the case.

    I’ve never heard ‘symbol’ used as a verb. The OED has ‘symbol’ in verb form as a Victorian nonce word, but it simply means to make a sign. ‘Symbolise’, maybe, you’re thinking of.

  65. starrychloe says:

    This is evolution in action. He has such an advantage over other people. He will be done with his PhD by the time he is 10 with all the extra time he has. He’ll have time to become a millionaire by 20 and travel the world too.

  66. Marcel says:

    So is the kid in actuality doing so bad? Does he have physical disorders directly related to this condition?
    Because really, I understand it must be Hell for the parents, but if the kid is more or less doing okay, I’m afraid that the cure (if at all available) might be worse than the (presumed) disease. Or maybe I just don’t like the sound of the term ‘experimental surgery’. Feel like they’re gonna turn part of the kids brain into milkshake and see what happens.
    He doesn’t behave according to ‘acceptable behaviour’, interesting, let’s open his skull.

  67. takeshi says:

    @ Arkizzle:

    “Have you got any sources on what you say about us being genetically altered due to using artificial light? ”

    I looked around for a source, but unfortunately I could only find one mention of the initial study on Wikipedia. Not that it matters. Antinous cited Wikipedia in this thread without attribution.
    http://webdrive.service.emory.edu/groups/research/lchb/PUBLICATIONS%20Worthman/PUBLICATIONS%20CMW%202002/Ecology%20of%20Human%20sleep.pdf

    I will continue to look for the source for the followup. I remember that it had some connection to the National Sleep Foundation. But yes, it has been determined that people with prolonged exposure to artificial light sleep differently than those who do not, and that the trait further carries over to their children.

    That notwithstanding, you have completely ignored my earlier point that human beings have indeed consciously altered the evolution of other species.

    http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/284831

  68. Inverse Square says:

    Brainswarm, it’s just defeatist to say that parents of disabled children should just learn to live with the sacrifice. This is a really really big sacrifice. Think of it for the mother: (at least) eight hours work, come home, sleep for eight hours, get up to care for child for eight hours while father sleeps. Those’re estimates, but cut them as much as you can, and she gets a matter of minutes with her husband on a work day.

    The risk the child has from the surgery would have to be pretty damn substancial to merit not doing it. Clearly the lack of sleep’s bad for him, but he needs a normal life, and if they’re doing whatever they’re doing, there must be a chance for that.

  69. JSG says:

    “But doctor, he only drinks 16 Red Bull’s a day.”

  70. Inverse Square says:

    “He doesn’t behave according to ‘acceptable behaviour’, interesting, let’s open his skull.”

    Jesus Christ. He’s a person who hasn’t slept in three years, not Jack Nicholson.

  71. rosethornn says:

    There were people GM’d not to sleep in “Changing Planes” by Ursula La Guin,, too.

  72. arkizzle says:

    I didn’t ignore your point, I just didn’t feel it well made enough to do anything other than try to get more information about your thoughts, by asking questions, so I could try to assess what you were putting forward.

    I will follow your link and hopefully better understand your ideas.

  73. takeshi says:

    @ BLACKBIRD:

    Just read the Bay News article. Unfortunately, what we have is a “report” consisting of little more than anecdotal information from the parents of the unfortunate child. In fact, the only person quoted in the article is the child’s mother.

    My first assumption is that no doctor was contacted for comment. In reference to the impending operation, the article states that “doctors say there’s a 50-50 chance for success.” Which doctors said that remains a mystery, and since no quote is attached, one is led to believe that this information came from the same source.

    It is entirely possible that the Arnold-Chiari malformation could be responsible for long-term sleep deprivation, but the notion that this 3 year old “has never been able to fall asleep” is categorically absurd.

  74. Daemon says:

    First thing that popped into my head: “Can’t sleep. Clown will eat me.”

    I remember reading a bit about long-term sleep-dep, and that after a week or so without sleep, you can expect permanent personality changes as a side effect. Never did find out what sort of changes were experienced though. Eventually you actually die from it, apparently.

    The lack of death implies he’s got a strong resistance to sleep dep effects, but you still have to assume he’s never going to be normal, even if he does start sleeping.

  75. mikelotus says:

    not that i care, but he is home from the surgery
    http://www.baynews9.com/content/36/2008/5/10/347281.html

  76. Blackbird says:

    “There is an extraordinarily rare genetic disorder called fatal familial insomnia which leads to an inability to sleep and then death in about a year after initial symptoms for those who inherit the gene (though it tends to kick in later in life).”

    I ran across this too…it’s amazingly rare, 28 family lines have it. Thats all. Both mother and father must be carriers. It effects you at 30 – 60 years of age. NOTHING WORKS on it…no meds, nothing. It’s something like 2 – 4 years between initial symptoms and death.

    This falls into one of those categories that drug companies don’t want to touch since there’s no profit to be had. That’s the sad part in all of this. Even with Chiari, the reasons that everything is ‘experimental’, there’s just no enough people with it to make it ‘worthwhile’. The surgery itself is not as ‘experimental’ as one would think…I think it falls into that catergory here since it’s on someone so young and hasn’t ‘really’ be used much for this disorder. But it is brain surgery and is thus, dangerous. The benefits though likely outweigh the risks. As he begins to grow, who knows what going to happen with all the bony structures in the foramen magnum and upper spinal channel. This, in and of itself, could cause death.

  77. jordan314 says:

    Couldn’t they knock him out with drugs or something?

  78. arkizzle says:

    The evolution of sleep and state regulation are not of central concern for the present discussion, for here we are considering the contemporary range of human variation in sleep behavior, its possible consequences and sequelae. Rather, human evolutionary history is relevant to the issues at hand insofar as it defines the set of constitutional capacities, vulnerabilities, constraints, and plasticities that undergird and structure patterns of human variability in sleep behavior.

    This is from the paper on sleep you linked to, it specifically says that they are talking about the trends in various human cultures, within the framework of our brain’s flexible system of sleep needs. That we have a wide enough spectrum of need, built-in, to accomodate the different places we live, and the differing ways we spend our nights (and they ask the fundamental question, why have we evolved this capacity?), but not that we have evolved in response to artificial light.

    It doesn’t seem (I didn’t read every sentence, I did some focused skimming) to talk about changes to our genes or physical make-up, if it does, please be kind enough to point out the passages.

  79. takeshi says:

    @ DAEMON:

    The lack of death implies that he’s slept. Actually, it more or less insists. But yeah, sleep deprivation is terrible for you. And even if he sleeps once every other day, sleep debt has been shown to have all sorts of nasty side effects. Depending on which study you look at, these may include irreversible brain damage.

    A warning for all you workaholics out there.

  80. Adam Stanhope says:

    The Wikipedia article on Arnold-Chiari malformation states that a surgical procedure that reshapes the base of the skull where skull meets spine provides improvement in 80% of hundreds of cases studied.

  81. Antinous says:

    What exactly is the scientific principle that states that this child can’t have a new mutation that makes sleep unnecessary? So there’s no record of this happening before. Animals only have one head, too. Until one is born with two of them. The fact that a phenomenon has not previously been documented does not mean that the phenomenon can’t occur.

  82. Takuan says:

    probability

  83. arkizzle says:

    OK, the only reference to modified physiology, is this:

    Effects of the dynamic properties of sleep settings remain to be systematically elucidated, but the possibility remains that physical, social, and temporal factors generating variation in human sleep ecology, as reviewed here, may be paralleled by variation not only in sleep behavior but also its physiology.

    ..in the “Implications and Speculations” section. And they don’t make mention of even considering this in their own study, only that it should be looked into at some point down the line, by somebody.

    This question deserves direct investigation in future
    sleep research.

  84. Antinous says:

    The existence of intelligent life is improbable. Oh, wait. Did I just prove your point?

  85. ornith says:

    @48 Takuan:

    Dolphins are known to sleep with only one hemisphere of their brain at a time – they need some amount of consciousness in order to continue coming up for air and not drown. I assume this applies to whales as well, since they breathe the same way; we’ve just studied dolphins rather better. Whoever said that about ducks, no, pretty sure that’s wrong. But it’s irrelevant anyway since dolphins are WAY closer to us genetically/evolutionarily than ducks.

    Switching between left hemisphere, right hemisphere, and both hemispheres awake would certainly cause the sort of personality shifts reported, and *should* also affect language. But I say “should” because brain plasticity might have solved that problem, and he may not be talking well enough to tell. The fact that this system has evolved in a close and intelligent animal makes it not entirely implausable as an explanation for his survival with “no” sleep.

    Constant sleepwalking is another “no” sleep possibility – he may be sleeping, but how would you tell for sure with a kid that young? And his parents wouldn’t be saved from the need to watch him constantly. Although that seems pretty suspect, since sleepwalking only happens during REM sleep, and REM accounts for well under half of sleep. He’d have to be both a sleepwalking AND constantly dreaming, and that would take the normal sleep deprivation toll on his body (no chance to repair itself), even if it keeps him from the mental effects.

    It certianly can’t be microsleeping; that would only postpone death-from-sleep-deprivation – and not vert long at that. Anyone who has ever tried to function on nothing but catnaps knows you can only pull that off for a limited length of time before the same effects as no sleep at all; it’s better than nothing, but not sustainable… even sleeping 2 solid hours a day will have you seriously loopy within a week. Sure, there’s that occasional lucky bastard who only needs four hours of sleep a night, but even they couldn’t keep catnaps-only up for three years.

    Continual sleep deprivation – even a few hours down per day – leads to reduced immune function, reaction time, and mental ability, though you can get by that way for quite a while. (As in, high school – and most high schoolers sleep really late on weekends to compensate for some of it.) Even the most minor sleep deprivation will do this to some small extent – the day after we lose an hour of sleep to Daylight Savings Time, car crashes are always higher than on a normal Monday.

    I believe – though I’m not nearly as sure on this one – that it’s even been shown that a continual lack of REM sleep, in someone who is getting enough sleep overall, causes many of the same problems. We may not understand sleep, especially REM sleep (i.e. dreaming), very well… but we really do need it. Last I heard the best theory was that sleep in general is required to give your body a chance to repair itself (which is why you often sleep extra when ill), and REM in particular does some sort of neurotransmitter reset.

    And even if the kid is actually capable of surviving without any normal sleep, no matter how he does it, the fact is that his parents need sleep, and he needs caretakers to survive. The father already had to quit his job to provide enough care, and the article makes it sound like neither of them has been getting full nights of sleep even with that. Sooner or later, one of them is likely to fall badly ill or get in a car crash from their chronic low-grade sleep deprivation, and then where will the kid be?

  86. Blackbird says:

    Takeshi:

    I read the article, and a lot more.

    Given recent events (unrelated) I so rarely rely JUST on one article for information.
    The child’s father is also quoted : )
    My guess on the 50/50 shot is that yeah, they just used what the mother said, without a good attributable quote.

    I agree with you on the last point. That he has NEVER fallen asleep is absurd(more misleading I think…)… Whether he’s falling asleep momentarily (with or without knowledge), or not being able to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time, he’s still getting some ‘rest’.
    I think there’s a big difference in ‘not sleeping’ versus ‘not sleeping well’. Regardless, as he is a child, he would need to be watched all the time.

  87. arkizzle says:

    Takashi, I was gonna jump in on Razzabeth too.

    Indeed, you can start hallucinating (proper 3d in-front-of-you stuff) in just 2 or 3 days.
    I used to do various work-related things that meant I didn’t get sleep for days at a time, it really does mess with your head.

    Once, after only about 2 days, I was treated to the sight of very realistic (but see-through) leprechauns, about 10-12 inches high, Irish dancing on the armrest of the chair I was sitting in, and laughing at me – really. All the while I was describing exactly what I was clearly seeing, to my flat mate, who was a little freaked out, but enjoyed the descriptions none-the-less.

    On a completely separate tip, the longest I ever went without sleep was a certified seven days, although this one involved chemical sustenance, I never even nodded off once.

    Now that was an experience -zzk -zk -zzt (excuse me, i twitch now)

  88. Tenn says:

    Once, after only about 2 days, I was treated to the sight of very realistic (but see-through) leprechauns, about 10-12 inches high, Irish dancing on the armrest of the chair I was sitting in, and laughing at me – really. All the while I was describing exactly what I was clearly seeing, to my flat mate, who was a little freaked out, but enjoyed the descriptions none-the-less.

    I read a story with that once. I can’t recall who it was by. Might have been a Poe.

    Seven days? Really? Man. Three nearly killed me.

  89. gruben says:

    Reminds me of this guy:

    http://www.thanhniennews.com/features/?catid=10&newsid=12673

    He supposedly hasn’t sleep since 1973. Don’t know the validity of the article though.

  90. Anonymous says:

    ^^ Thanks the to all of those who commented with information!

    I guess the reporter could not or would not give us anymore than a thumbnail sketch of this story which left us with lots of questions. Do it yourself journalism?

  91. jimh says:

    Antinous, do you have a link to that study?
    I’d be interested in reading that.

  92. THarrnacker says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the RING so far….

  93. charliekkendo says:

    JG Ballard had stories about people being conditioned to not sleep also. In Ballard’s stories, everything works fine… for a while.

  94. Antinous says:

    I don’t know if either of these is what I remember reading, but here are a couple of BBC articles on the subject.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7009927.stm

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1820996.stm

  95. cstatman says:

    my kid won’t eat, long story, no need for details, but here’s the big deal…

    if your kid is not “normal” or close to it? as a parent, you will do ANYTHING you can to help your kid.

    we’ve been to every doctor, we’ve run every test Stanford Children’s Hospital offers. I don’t mean “every” like some folks say “we argue every night” I mean, 100%, none left to do.

    So, like any parent of a child with issues, I totally understand this. You do whatever you can.

    before we had Tarzan (our son) I was a normal geek with the response of “oh well, scratch it and start again” now? I get it.

    will do anything for the kid.

    and I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, when he is 16, he will crash my car, when he is 18, he will suck down all my money for college, and when he is in his mid-20s, and becomes a smart, interesting person I want to talk to? he will move away.

    Call your mom this weekend. remind her you love her.

    C

  96. takeshi says:

    @ BLACKBIRD:

    Sorry for the confusion. I wasn’t telling you to read the article. I was saying that I’d just read it myself. I sometimes forget how easily certain things can be misinterpreted when typed.

    I didn’t realize that the father had been quoted, but obviously we are on the same page with regard to the article. Of course, it was probably less than a page long, anyway.

    @ ANTINOUS:

    “The fact that a phenomenon has not previously been documented does not mean that the phenomenon can’t occur.”

    Well, Takuan beat me to it. The likeliness of such a thing happening is ridiculous. Yes, certain animals (including several human beings) have been born with more than one head, but being limited to one head is not essential to human survival. A child surviving without sleep for three years is every bit as impossible as the same child surviving without water for three months. It just can’t happen… sorry.

    The scientific principle is Ockham’s razor. The simplest explanation is that this child, although very sleep deprived, is still able to catch a wink every now and then. Or else, just like every other human being who tried to go without sleep for three years, he would die. The assumption that anyone could go three years without sleep would necessitate a belief in the most outrageous series of coincidences. According to the kid’s mother, his moods change frequently, so another safe assumption would be that he’s not genetically predisposed to function normally without sleep. In general, children require more sleep than adults, and my guess is that this poor kid is no exception.

  97. takeshi says:

    Oh, sorry, I should have said that the likeliness of his surviving after three years without sleep is zero. I’m not saying that he can’t have a condition that will make him stay awake until he dies, but that would have occurred long ago.

    The idea that he would have this ultra-rare insomnia-inducing condition and be the only person in history to survive without sleep is fairly remote, I’m sure you’ll agree.

  98. Antinous says:

    It just can’t happen… sorry.

    Why? Why, with six billion chances, shouldn’t someone be born with brain chemistry that does not require sleep for functioning? We don’t even understand how sleep works. I don’t think that Ockham’s Razor is meant to substitute ‘they must be lying’ to explain heretofore unobserved phenomena. That would be the death of science.

    The multiple theories proposed to explain the function of sleep are reflective of the as yet incomplete understanding of the subject.

  99. Bookyloo says:

    Brief news stories are known for gross oversimplification, especially in cases where an incredibly rare and complicated medical problem is being described. I would bet that it’s not strictly, literally true that the kid “never sleeps”.

    BUT, is it possible that, when he does sleep, the kid never lies down still and sleeps like most humans? Maybe he only sleeps while walking around/talking, etc, and sleeps far less than one generally needs. Perhaps instead of lying down and conking out he merely lapses into periods of an open-eyed sleepwalking/sleeptalking state?

    That would explain both the alleged “not sleeping” for three whole years, the abrupt changes in personality and mood, plus it explains why he would need someone awake and watching him round-the-clock.

  100. Takuan says:

    sleep science. Fund it we must.

    Imagine enough time,money and talent put into it and imagine: never having insomnia again, always feeling rested on waking, being in control of one’s circadian rhythm, dreaming on demand, no more nightmares, being able to put the kids really to bed, getting extra healing sleep when needed, not being woken up by the neighbour’s dog or telephone solicitors, no dependency on sleep drugs, drinking coffee just for the taste…..

  101. Takuan says:

    6,000,000,000 chances; is that a lot? It is possible to quantify the odds on such a radical mutation. I have absolutely no credential to do such beyond observational experience. My instinct is “no”, can anyone more qualified in solid training and learning tell me more?

  102. Tamu says:

    (Beggars in Spain: excellent book)

    If a child (and his parents) is not sleeping much or normally, it can have huge repercussions. As a person who does not sleep well and is often sleep-deprived for a few weeks at a time (meaning I sleep but not much, and every 2 to 6 weeks I go one to two days with no sleep at all), I can tell you that it wreaks havoc on every part of your life, and your health. Your immune system is usually shot, for one. Your level of emotional control and stress gets closer to nil as you have less and less sleep and this affects your perception and all sorts of decisions. It ages you badly, too.

    You do learn to cope. To a point. I was much better at it from 13 to 34, but now it is getting increasingly difficult. And unless you have sleep apnea many doctors do not treat long-term sleep disorders seriously.

    The articles don’t say much, but after reading the related articles about the boy’s condition, his family must be going through a lot. With US medical care being at a cost to the family, it must be a (waking) nightmare. I hope they all pull through.

  103. strathmeyer says:

    Well, I’m off to contact some old professors to find out if some new and amazing discoveries have been made in the name of brain science or if this is just bullshit.

  104. Tubman says:

    @#40, Antinous: What’s that 6 billion based on? There’s no evidence of anything remotely like 3 years without sleep not just in humans currently inhabiting the planet, but in any species of mammal. The odds of it being a false claim vastly outweigh those of it being true: it’d be like finding a 3,000 year-old man when no-one else has made it past 120.

  105. Takuan says:

    Hang on now, “any species of mammal”? How do YOU know? Do whales sleep?

  106. Antinous says:

    The odds of it being a false claim vastly outweigh those of it being true

    The same thing has been said about the earth circling the sun and humans leaving the ground. Every scientific discovery has been met with scorn by the majority of scientists. Is the idea of a human having a brain that doesn’t require sleep that much more improbable than the development of complex language or walking on two legs? The 3,000 year old versus 120 year old argument is spurious. Are evolutionary changes incremental? A mutation is a single event, not part of an ‘evolutionary process’. That’s Intelligent Design thinking. White swans didn’t evolve from black ones, or vice versa, through shades of gray until God found the right color. Evolution is a series of discreet events, not a process.

  107. Sister Y says:

    Because it is cool, I just want to point out that there is good evidence that dolphins, at least, sleep unihemispherically.

    An electroencephalographic study of sleep in Amazonian dolphins, Inia geoffrensis, revealed that unihemispheric slow-wave sleep is the dominant sleep type in this species, as in the other two dolphin species that were studied earlier.

  108. takeshi says:

    @ ANTINOUS:

    “Why, with six billion chances, shouldn’t someone be born with brain chemistry that does not require sleep for functioning?”

    Sure… someone should be. Why not? If there was a pill I could take to give me an additional eight hours a day, I’d be the first in line at the pharmacy. I’m not arguing that it could never be possible, but from the information currently available to Earthlings, it seems utterly infeasible.

    With a limitless number of possibilities, anything is possible, but that’s just not the Universe we live in. The fact is: it’s never happened yet, and unless pseudoscience is your thing, you must accept that this kind of evolutionary leap would almost certainly not occur overnight. Again, it would be the same as someone not needing water. We know enough about sleep to know that it is intimately and (for now) inextricably connected to our survival.

    I need it, you need it, this poor kid needs it, every human being who has ever lived has needed it, and as a point of observation it is very likely that we humans will continue needing it until a few of us are born who need it less, and we continue breeding until eventually a kid is born who doesn’t need it at all. But the odds of that very kid being born with an abnormality such as this are astronomical, and the very suggestion borders on the macabre.

    Again, what makes you think that this kid who has an extremely rare condition would be the one to step up to the evolutionary plate? Why would he magically adapt to these structural defects he had a one in a trillion chance of inheriting? Or if it wasn’t adaptation to that, but rather he is so evolved that he doesn’t need sleep, why would his mother think that he needs it so desperately? I guess there are a few reasons, but none of it really matters. Fact is, people need sleep to survive. I’m sorry that you are unable to prove otherwise.

    “We don’t even understand how sleep works.”

    Yes, we do, somewhat, and a Hell of a lot better than we did even fifteen years ago. I would contend that we understand it as well as we understand gravity. And for the record, I’m someone who believes that, given enough time, everything could be explained in mechanistic terms. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, however.

    “I don’t think that Ockham’s Razor is meant to substitute ‘they must be lying’ to explain heretofore unobserved phenomena. That would be the death of science.”

    I don’t think so, either. You are attempting to make it seem as if I am saying the poor woman is lying. I’m not. It is more likely to assume that she’s never seen her child fall asleep, but like every thinking human being she deserves to be informed that it is impossible to survive without it. An explanation for this phenomenon is all I’m after, and it is clear that my explanation is both simpler and more scientifically grounded than yours.

    To put it even more simply, this kid sleeps, and his mother doesn’t realize it. That is a far simpler and more rational explanation than yours, which is frankly unexceptional. As BOOKYLOO suggested, there are countless examples of people sleeping without shutting their eyes. Some people walk, talk, and even drive themselves to work in their sleep. Solely depending on a highly improbable series of circumstances to attempt to validate your argument for the existence of an unprecedented phenomenon is just bad science.

    Sure, it could happen, but it hasn’t. And just so we are clear: it is doubtful that a human being will ever be born with hollow bones and wings, enabling him to fly, either.

  109. Antiglobalism says:

    Hey, this boy could become the perfect office slave! 20h work day, no sleep, only cash and coffee as motivation!

  110. takeshi says:

    Oh, and a series of discreet events? Please. You know I’m not a proponent of Inelegant Design, but any series of events, discreet or otherwise, could indeed be seen as a process. Words are flexible, you know.

    We have downward-sloped noses from diving for fish. Adaptation can and does occur in increments, though not exclusively. Sad to say, any explanation of such a bold evolutionary leap would be better than “it could happen, so it must have.”

  111. Antinous says:

    this kind of evolutionary leap would almost certainly not occur overnight

    All evolutionary leaps occur instantaneously. Or as long as it takes for a chunk of DNA to change enough to cause a mutation. Evolution is not a process. It is a series of events. What you are describing is not evolution. Evolution has no strategy. Evolution has no goal. Evolution has no end result. Evolution is a mutation here and a mutation there, a tiny fraction of which prove advantageous.

    it is doubtful that a human being will ever be born with hollow bones and wings, enabling him to fly, either.

    But reptiles did have that happen. So the likelihood of such a grand evolutionary change is 100%. Not for humans perhaps, but for some organisms. Evolving not to need sleep is far less dramatic and improbable than bipedalism (humans), losing limbs and becoming aquatic (cetaceans), developing flight (birds). You are arguing against history, against science and against evolution.

  112. Takuan says:

    Russian docile foxes. One generation? And thus the dog was born? ONE generation. ONE.

  113. Antinous says:

    Maybe my perspective is warped because I’ve had the misfortune of pawing through hundreds of Polaroids of fetuses aborted due to massive genetic anomalies. Once you’ve seen a few eight-limbed babies, the idea of a possible minor change in brain chemistry just seems like not a big deal. If a single mutation can make a baby that looks like Shelob…

  114. jimh says:

    “Will a boy ever be born that can swim faster than a shark?”
    -Gareth Keenan

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