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Fatal Familial Insomnia

Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) is an exceedingly rare degenerative brain disorder that causes intractable insomnia, leading to death within a few months to a year. Key features of FFI include:

  • Caused by a misfolded protein called a prion that aggregates in the thalamus, the brain's "sleep switch"
  • Characterized by rapidly worsening insomnia, panic attacks, and weight loss
  • Patients get progressively less sleep until they cannot sleep at all
  • Leads to rapid cognitive deterioration, dementia, coma and death

No known cure or effective treatment FFI demonstrates the indispensable nature of sleep for survival. Without the ability to sleep, the brain and body cannot function and will inevitably perish. While exceptionally rare, FFI reveals the dire necessity of sleep for human life.

Section: 4, Chapter: 12

Book: Why We Sleep

Author: Matthew Walker

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