Dutch man wakes up from 8-year coma after being given sleeping pill

Dutch man wakes up from 8-year coma after being given sleeping pill

A 39-year-old man from the Netherlands regained full consciousness from an eight-year coma after doctors administered him with a sleeping pill. The doctors recorded their findings in the Cortex medical journal.

Waking up after eight years

The man, identified as Richard in the journal, suffered severe brain damage after choking while eating. He was diagnosed with akinetic mutism after the incident, a rare brain disorder which left him only able to move his eyes and unable to move, talk or eat. “It was clear Richard saw us and heard us,” said Willemijn van Erp, a student doctor who treated Richard. “But because of his brain injury, he was barely able to respond to us.”

Richard was administered with a Zolpidem sleeping pill, better known as Ambien, after reports suggested that sleeping pills could temporarily cure paralysis in patients. He regained consciousness and, after twenty minutes, was able to walk, recognise his family and speak to his father on the phone.

According to the journal, Richard could stay alert for two hours if he takes the pill once per day. However, he should not take it for more than five days in a row as his body could grow accustomed to the medication, which will reduce its effectiveness.

How can sleeping pills help treat brain disorders?

Akinetic mutism slows down mental function, making it hard for the brain to send the signals which tell the body to move. When Richard tries to move or talk, parts of his brain shut down due to sensory overload.

Sleeping pills slow down brain activity and, when Richard takes one, it stops the overload of activity in his brain, allowing him to move again.

William Nehra


William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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