Mystery of the Boy Who Could Not Sleep Solved, and other non-sleepers

By | January 25, 2009

Not long ago, saying goodnight to his mom and dad was nearly impossible for 3-year-old Rhett Lamb. In a case that baffled doctors, Rhett was awake nearly 24 hours a day. “His body would give out but his mind wouldn’t; he’d still be awake,” said Rhett’s mom, Shannon Lamb. “He’d still be alert. It was extremely scary.”

One of the side effects of Rhett’s lack of sleep was bad behavior. …

“He would hit you, he would bite you, he would head butt you and anything else around him, and you didn’t know from one minute to the next what was going to happen,” she said. Rhett’s dad David Lamb said, “It was like he was losing his mind and there was nothing we could do to help him.”

The Lambs, who live in St. Petersburg, Fla., arranged opposite work shifts so one of them could stay home and take care of Rhett. …

After dozens of doctors’ visits and years of conflicting opinions, Rhett was finally diagnosed with a rare brain condition called chiari malformation.

Chiari malformation is a neurological disorder in which the bottom part of the brain, the cerebellum, descends out of the skull and crowds the spinal cord, putting pressure on both the brain and spine, causing a number of symptoms, including sleeplessness.

Once diagnosed, doctors were able to perform a risky surgery that offered a 50-50 chance Rhett would be able to sleep normally for the first time.

… The surgery was a success. Rhett was finally able to sleep through the night, and his behavior improved dramatically. Because of the disease, he was functioning at the level of an 18-month-old and couldn’t even speak. But in a matter of months, he has almost caught up to his peers, and for the first time in his life, he is interacting with other children.

via ABC News: Mystery of Sleepless Boy Solved.

In one case a 40 year old man who became completely unable to sleep died after six months. Read about Fatal Familial Insomnia.

There are also two cases in Vietnam supposedly of healthy men who stopped sleeping at some point in their lives.

Another extreme case of insomnia has come to light in Vietnam. This time it is a 49-year-old man who has not slept in 27 years but remains healthy.

Nguyen Van Kha, a tiller, chicken farmer, and carpenter, tells Thanh Nien he has never slept since 1979 when he was a soldier in an artillery division.

One day, closing his eyes had begun to cause a burning sensation. But he did not dare report to his seniors fearing discharge.

“But for my sunken eyes and black circles, nobody could guess I could not sleep. The black circles appeared 10 years ago.”

While speaking with Thanh Nien, he regularly scrubs his eyes saying it eases a burning sensation.

At night, he watches TV until 9 pm before lying down to “rest”.

“Even if I close my eyes for a short while, I feel a pricking sensation and must open them.”

He has tried western and herbal remedies but all in vain. Strangely, he rarely falls sick.

Last year Thanh Nien reported the case of the now 65-year-old Thai Ngoc, a farmer in Quang Nam province who suffers the same condition since catching a fever in 1973. – chao-vietnam

Originally on, now removed. Of Thai Ngoc, wikipedia says:

Thai Ngoc or Hai Ngoc (born 1942)[1] is a Vietnamese insomniac. According to Vietnamese news organization Thanh Nien, he is best known for his claim of being awake for 35 years. Thanh Nien also claimed that Ngoc acquired the ability to go without sleep after a bout of fever in 1973,[2] but according to Vietnam Investment Review, there was no apparent cause.[1] At the time of the Thanh Nien report, Ngoc suffered from no apparent ill effect (other than being unable to sleep). He was mentally sound and was able to carry 100 kg of pig feed down a 4km road.[2]

In October 2006, however, Ngoc reported that he was beginning to feel “like a plant without water” due to the lack of sleep.[1]

Ngoc has refused to be taken abroad for testing, as he has not left his village for sixty years and is afraid of tests.[1]

4 thoughts on “Mystery of the Boy Who Could Not Sleep Solved, and other non-sleepers

  1. ashley

    My dad is 65 years old and he only gets about 7 hours of sleep a night…. that isnt enough sleep is it?? Hes had about 4 heart attacks and is not in good health at all! i was just wondering how much sleep he should have a night?

    1. Xeno Post author

      Hi Ashley,
      According to “The amount of sleep each person needs depends on many factors, including age, health, recent physical exertion, and mental activity.” Seven hours is not bad at all. People often need less sleep the older they get, but every person is unique. Ask your dad if he feels sleepy when he wakes up and during the day. Finally, be sure he has the best diet and the most exercise he can safely handle. My own dad, a nutritionist, recommends Coenzyme Q10, L-Carnitine and D-Ribose.

  2. mamasltlhelper

    What if sleep is only necessary on days we tax our body, mind and soul? Therefore we do damage that requires sleep to repair that which stress, not being centered, not knowing what are true capabilities are, so we hurt ourself in some way and end up exhausted where sleep is essential so we don’t ruin our vessels. If able to control the mind, body and soul for thier purpose of being here without society and science in thier ear telling them they need to sleep, maybe we will find out a lot more about the human vessel capabilities. One thing we know about sciences is its always changing, new sciences are being developed

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