Fatal Insomnia, a Different Kind of Insomnia

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Having trouble sleeping sounds like it’s a trivial thing, but the inability to sleep for a long period of time can take a toll on your body. Insomnia is a common health issue affecting millions of people. Increased stress levels are one of the contributing factors. People with insomnia find it hard to shut their eyes despite having tried various treatments.

Insomnia that lasts for years can eventually become chronic and at this point, it will be much harder to treat. If you’re dealing with this problem, don’t overlook it and seek treatment as soon as possible. In addition to the usual insomnia we all know about, there is another rare condition, fatal insomnia. As the name suggests, it’s also characterized by the inability to sleep.

Fatal Insomnia

What is fatal insomnia?

Fatal insomnia is hereditary as it runs in families. Compared to the regular insomnia, this condition is much rarer and it affects the thalamus. Trouble sleeping is only one of the symptoms. Sufferers can also experience speech issues and dementia that develops very quickly. Seeing the scary name it’s attached to makes us wonder how fatal this disease actually is. It’s very serious because someone with this condition could die within a year following the diagnosis.

Facts about fatal insomnia

Fatal insomnia falls under the umbrella of prion diseases. It is more prevalent in middle-aged population although younger and older ones can also be affected by it. Insomnia is one of the symptoms. People describe it as the inability to fall asleep and the difficulty to stay asleep. Unlike the typical insomnia that most of us know about, this one causes spasms and muscle twitching. In some cases, the sufferers also have decreased appetite. Dementia may also show up as a symptom, which interestingly progresses very fast.


This disease is genetics and affects the thalamus. What happens is during the progression is the thalamus is losing its ability at a fast rate, which is why the symptoms develop rather quickly, too. The mutated gene may be passed from generation to generation. A child has a 50% chance of having it if either parent also inherited it from the previous generation.


Calling it fatal is very fitting because the disease is deadly the moment it has been discovered. Treatment focuses mainly on controlling the symptoms because some of them may be debilitating. Looking at the description, fatal insomnia sounds much more horrible than the usual insomnia. At least with the latter, many people don’t suffer serious side effects. It’s just that they have trouble falling asleep at night. At worst they may just have to deal with reduced productivity and daytime sleepiness.