Vietnamese gentleman Thái Ngọc claims that ever since he suffered a terrible fever in 1973, he hasn't slept a wink. There's also Ines Fernandez who says she's been awake for decades. Of course, these curious individuals and others with similar stories may actually be suffering from a very strange sleep disorder called sleep state misperception (SSM) in which the individuals think they were up all night but actually slept just fine. At Mysterious Universe, Martin J. Clemens looks at SSM and the very scary rare disease called Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI), presented as total insomnia that can last the rest of the person's life, which is usually only 18 months or so after the onset of symptoms. From Mysterious Universe:
"The Woman Who Stayed Awake for 30 Years…Or Did She? Read the rest
FFI is a neurological condition caused by a misfolded protein in the DNA of the afflicted, of which there have been only about 100 cases. That protein, called a prion protein, is known as PrPSc (PrPC in non-FFI subjects). Essentially, the prion form of the protein causes a change in certain amino acids – due to the protein strand folding incorrectly – which, when combined with other genetic markers, then affects the brain’s sleep centers. FFI is genetic, and therefore hereditary, but there is an even rarer form known as Sporadic Fatal Insomnia (sFI) that occurs spontaneously, the cause of which is not understood. You may wish to know that PrPSc is the same protein that’s responsible for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as Mad Cow Disease.