What is the difference between sleep and unconciousness?

666 y.k.y at lycos.com
Thu Mar 15 12:05:48 EST 2001


I scanned this page from "Wide Awake at 3AM" by Richard M Coleman (1986):
-----------------------------------------------------

A Man Who Hasn't Slept Since World War II
By Robert Powell

San Antonio de Los Banos, Cuba

    The only outward sign that Tomas Izquierdo has lived without normal
sleep for 40 years is the pair of dark glasses protecting his sensitive
eyes. The former textile worker is a mentally alert and young-looking 53,
and he and his second wife recently had a son. Yet a large dossier of
medical evidence suggests that he lost his ability to sleep at the end of
World War II and has remained awake ever since.

"As far as we know, no case like it has been reported in medical literature
anywhere in the world," says Dr. Pedro Garcia Fleites, one of Cuba's leading
psychiatrists, who has treated Izquierdo for the past 16 years.

In 1970, Garcia Fleites and a team of doctors at Havana Psychiatric Hospital
kept Izquierdo under constant observation for nearly two weeks. Even when he
rested with his eyes closed, the electroencephalograms continued to register
the brain activity of a person fully awake.

"He has no natural sleep. The nearest thing Tomas gets to sleep is a
drowsiness produced by the drugs prescribed for him," the psychiatrist said
in an interview.
Like the rest of us who cannot survive more than a few days without sleep,
Izquierdo suffers from exhaustion and needs periodic rest.

Even in a state of drug-induced narcosis, however, he is unable to escape
completely from the consciousness that has haunted him since 1945.

"I dream just as I would say everybody else dreams. The difference is that I
know positively that I am awake and that I am active," Izquierdo said at his
home in this small town near Havana.

He and Garcia Fleites have different ideas about the origin of his chronic
insomnia. According to the psychiatrist and other doctors familiar with the
case, Izquierdo's sleep mechanism was probably damaged by an attack of
encephalitis - an inflammation of the inner brain - when he was 13.

Izquierdo thinks his insomnia derives from a psychological trauma he
suffered during an operation to remove his tonsils. A throat hemorrhage sent
blood spurting out of his mouth and the terrified adolescent thought he was
dying.

The horrific sensation of dying subsequently repeated itself in nightmares,
and Izquierdo says that he began resisting sleep to avoid them. According to
his own account, within a few weeks he found he had stopped sleeping
altogether.

Since then, more than 40 doctors have tried hypnosis, electroshock
treatment, acupuncture and experimental drugs to restore Izquierdo's ability
to sleep.
lzquierdo has even resorted to spiritual mediums and voodoo doctors, but all
have apparently failed to allow him to sleep.

Affectionately known in San Antonio de los Banos as "Tomas who doesn't
sleep," Izquierdo.used to work double shifts at the local textile factory He
was retired in 1968 on medical grounds when symptoms connected with his
inability to sleep became evident.

According to Garcia Fleites, Izquierdo's memory began to fail, and he showed
a progressive lack of self-confidence.

Izquierdo himself admits that he now finds it difficult to remember dates or
retain the contents of a book.

At present, he passes the time doing odd jobs for friends and neighbors and
driving couples to weddings in his immaculately kept 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air.

Transcendental meditation has become his most effective form of relaxation,
and on most nights he rests for a few hours from 3 or 4 A.M. onward,
meditating or drifting into a drug-induced stupor. Sometimes Izquierdo feels
that he can still go happily for several days without rest.

"But some days it is just the opposite," he says. "There are days when I am
good for nothing. I feel drained, drained, drained, mainly in a mental
sense, but physically as well."

"It's a tragedy," izquierdo says, "a tragedy within my own self."
- Reuters

*Published in the San Francisco Chronicle, April 22, 1986.

> > >Someone else on a neurology forum referenced a Cuban man who had
encephalitis
> > >as a kid, which wrecked his either thalamus or hypothalamus, and he
didn't
> > >sleep for forty years. Apparently he "rested" or went into a light
stage of one
> > >and tiny bits of two sleep, no 3, 4 or REM.  He needed to "rest"
though, and
> > >felt it akin to meditation. Anyways, they couldn't induce any sleep
with any
> > >medication on him. He was apparently evauated at the Stanford Sleep
Center back
> > >in the 80's but I haven't been able to find any reference to this
study.






More information about the Neur-sci mailing list