Do I have fatal familial insomnia?
Q: I’ve been getting fragmented sleep for about a month now. I have gotten panic attacks since I read about fatal familial insomnia and sporadic fatal familial insomnia. Since this insomnia started, I usually feel normal in the morning but as the day progresses I start feeling worse. Could this be FFI? I worry now since I started googling this. I’m only 19 years old and need some reassurance.
A: First let me help set your mind at ease about FFI and sFI. FFI is genetic and inherited. The gene responsible is found in only 40 families worldwide, affecting about 100 people. So if you don’t have a blood relative with it (and you most certainly would know if you did) then the chances of you having this are probably less then winning the powerball lottery (basically zilch).
Sporadic fatal insomnia is not genetic, but even rarer. Only 8 cases worldwide have been diagnosed as of July 2005.
So yes, there may be many legitimate worries in life, but either of these diseases almost certainly isn’t one of them.
Second, feeling worse later in the day could possibly be symptoms of sleep deprivation. If you are concerned and this continues to be a problem, then a visit to your doctor is in order.
But if you’ve only had insomnia for a month, you likely do not have what’s known as chronic insomnia. That bodes well for you recovering normal sleep. Some insomniacs live with sleeplessness for years, even decades.
This does not have to be you!
Usually, and especially at your age, sleeping issues resolve on their own. That’s what you can expect too. To help recover your sleep, It’s important to lead a healthy sleep supportive lifestyle.
This includes keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule, in particular a consistent wake-up time every day, as much as possible. If you let yourself sleep in one day, you pay the price the next night.
Try to schedule some good exercise every day. Avoid or minimize any food or drink with caffeine after lunch.
Stay busy with work and/or school, and cultivate a supportive social network. Basically, tire yourself out every day and you will tend to sleep better at night.
If you want more of these kinds of simple, common sense solutions for better sleep, check out CBT sleep training. CBT is the recommended standard of care for insomnia by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. It is a drug-free and permanent solution to insomnia.
So it’s OK to safely let go the worry about sleep. Be confident there are many ways you can make this better.