Sanford Pinna, M.D.
In spite of the fact that sleep is required by
all living animals, scientists know very little about
It is so essential for human life, that patients
affected by Fatal Familial Insomnia generally die
within three years with the best care and treatment,
and, some patients die in less than three months.
No one afflicted with Fatal Familial Insomnia
has ever survived!
The pathology involved in this disease is extremely
complex, but the most important factor is that the disease
In the entire world, there are less than fifty families
affected by this disease.
The first doctor to recognize the disease was an
Italian physician who actually developed the disease
approximately 250 years ago.
Descendents of this man live in Italy. When I studied
medicine at the University of Bologna, I was privileged
enough to see the Sleep Clinic where some of the patients
afflicted with the disease were treated.
Most of them died within nine months.
Out of pure luck, I was able to discuss the disease,
its cause, its progress and its possible mechanism with
a brilliant Italian Neurologist who had done research
on this fascinating disease.
According to the Neurologist, to whom I pledged
I would never reveal his name, the major cause of the disease
was a protein which changed its nature by the time the
patient had reached middle age.
FATAL INSOMNIA STRIKES
IN THE PRIME OF LIFE
“FFI” (FATAL FAMILIAL INSOMNIA) is not a
disease of children or even young people. The average
age is between forty and fifty.
(Thus, if you are not Italian and you are very
young or very old you need not worry. If you are
Italian and young, there is a rare, rare chance you
might have trouble falling asleep until your last night.)
Underlying this Insomnia is a blockage of the
neurons in the center of your brain. Sleep is not a
passive act. Sleep is an active act where one neuron
communicates to many others, and ultimately the
characteristics of sleep invade and conquer your
The term Insomnia derives from the Latin,
“In” means “Not” and “Somnia” means “Sleeping.”
“Not Sleeping” an easy combination of a prefix and
What are the basic characteristics of Insomnia?
It almost never attacks infants. Infants spend most
of their first three years of life sleeping. Put any infant
in a pleasant surrounding and the probability is extremely
high that his eyes will close, his breathing will become
regular and his will start to make movements, which
we know from electroencephalographic data, indicate
that he is dreaming.
Baby mammals behave in exactly the same manner.
Doggies and pussy cats drop off into never-never
It is postulated by some sleep scientists that all
animals, including fish and reptiles, sleepÃ¢â‚¬”even while
What could possibly bring about such a compelling
WHAT IS SLEEP?
Mankind has studied sleep since the
beginning of civilization, and most likely, prior to
civilization, and we still have no clue as to precisely
what sleep is.
I am going to give you my Hypothesis.
It is only an Hypothesis, that is, a Guess, but
I will give you my reasoning as to why I think my
Hypothesis might be true.
If nothing more, it can serve as a means of
creating a conversation. If you are young and looking
for friendship, my Hypothesis, and a glass of good
wine, might turn out to be a great starter.
ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL
These words happen to be the title of an old
song, but they also are a concept that recurs throughout
“All” is the antithesis of “Nothing at all.”
Is the Universe “All” or “Nothing at all?”
In modern quantum mechanics we describe the
universe as composed of “Matter” and “Anti-Matter.”
To be continued in Part Two