You’d think going without sleep for that long may have its drawbacks, but not for the man in central Quang Nam province who has never been ill after decades of insomnia.
His inability to sleep has not only made him famous, but also represents a “miraculous” phenomenon worthy of scientific study.
Sixty-four-year-old Thai Ngoc, known as Hai Ngoc, said he could not sleep at night after getting a fever in 1973, and has counted infinite numbers of sheep during more than 11,700 consecutive sleepless nights.
“I don’t know whether the insomnia has impacted my health or not. But I’m still healthy and can farm normally like others,” Ngoc said.
Proving his health, the elderly resident of Que Trung commune, Que Son district said he can carry two 50kg bags of fertilizer down 4km of road to return home every day.
His wife said, “My husband used to sleep well, but these days, even liquor cannot put him down.”
She said when Ngoc went to Da Nang for a medical examination, doctors gave him a clean bill of health, except a minor decline in liver function.
Ngoc currently lives on his 5ha farm at the foot of a mountain busy with farming and taking care of pigs and chickens all day. His six children live at their house in Que Trung.
“I have tried sleeping pills and Vietnamese traditional medicine but nothing helps, even to sleep for a few minutes,” he said.
Creature of the night
Ngoc often does extra farm work or guards his farm at night to prevent theft, saying he used three months of sleepless nights to dig two large ponds to raise fish.
Neighbor Vu said Ngoc volunteered to help beat a drum during the night and guard the house for the relatives of the dead during funeral ceremonies so that they could take a nap.
Vu also said when the commune was planting sugar cane, several people also asked Ngoc to awaken them at midnight to go to work, since he was up anyway.
On Ngoc’s prolonged insomnia, Phan Ngoc Ha, director of the Hoa Khanh Mental Hospital in Danang said sleep disorders often cause anorexia, lethargy, and irritability.
But, in special cases, some people can handle it and still live and work normally, although this was a very small ratio among insomniacs, Ha added.