Fatal Familial Insomnia

Posted on March 7, 2017


I believe that I’ve mentioned this disorder during class. Fatal Familial Insomnia, or FFI, is a prion disorder of the brain much like mad cow disease. The prions eat away at brain tissue and form small holes in the areas controlling sleep — specifically REM sleep (for more on which area controls what, please reference the article I gave you during class, “The Meaning of Dreams”). After onset, it takes just nine months to kill you. Based on what you saw with how DJ Peter Tripp reacted to ten days without sleep, I’m sure that you can imagine how miserable an entire nine months would be (if you missed the videos, view part 1 here, and part 2 here).

Unfortunately, it’s genetic, and there’s about a 50/50 chance it’ll be passed down to future generations. A few years ago, 20/20 did a feature on members of a family who have dealt with it for years — every one who has it descended from an Italian man in the mid to late 1700s, so the numbers of sufferers are low.

For more information on this if you’re interested, please see The Family That Couldn’t Sleep, by D.T. Max.