Sometimes even the most fantastic stories contain some truth. This is, for example, the case Sandmanrecent Netflix series based on graphic novels Neil Gaman. It speaks of an epidemic of dreams that occurs when a magician leaves the Dream Master trapped in the waking world. We’re sorry to inform you that wizards don’t exist. At least not those who use these types of spells. And that the master of dreams is called melatonin. Now, despite large doses of fiction in the plot, if we travel back in time, we will find a real case of a sleep epidemic which also caused the death of many people.
It happened during the epidemic spanish flu, in 1918. However, cases continued to occur for many years, reaching almost the 1930s. Since then, the disease has almost disappeared, as if by magic, and only a few and very rare cases have returned. But what happened?
Actually, it has nothing to do with the Sandman. The epidemic in the dream was caused by a real disease, perhaps infection. Although the agent that caused it was not clear at the time and remains unclear today.
The Sleep Epidemic After The Sandman
Both Neil Gaiman’s story and the Netflix series show that a large number of people get sick in their sleep. A little they sleep for years, others manage to wake up, but live in some intermediate state, devoid of energy. Many of them are dying, so the situation is serious. This is what happens in The Sandman, but also exactly what happened in the early 20th century with a disease called encephalitis lethargica.
The first cases were described by a Greek neurologist Konstantin von Economin 1917. However, some of the most comprehensive reports come from Oliver Sachsneurologist and science popularizer known for books such as The man who mistook his wife for a hatin which he told strange patient stories. According to him, even if they knew they are not fully awake. “They have been sitting motionless and silent in their chairs all day, utterly devoid of energy, drive, initiative, motive, appetite, affection, or desire; they recorded what happened to them without active attention and with deep indifference.” In fact, they were like the living dead. In fact, some of them died.
It is estimated that during the years that this epidemic of sleep lasted, they fell ill over a million people, of which about 500,000 died. But the survivors did not get rid of the symptoms so easily. Many remained semi-conscious with symptoms similar to those Parkinson’s disease. It was because of the similarity to this disease that Oliver Sacks himself treated some patients in the late 1960s with a drug directed against this disease, L-DOPA. Unfortunately, although at first they seemed to have recovered, the symptoms reappeared.
The disease began with symptoms flu-like: fever, fatigue, headache and sore throat. Little by little, however, neurological symptoms appeared, and the patients fell into this very strange sluggish state. For this reason, it was suspected that the Spaniard herself caused this complication in some patients. In fact, the sleep epidemic began and ended at almost the same time.
However, it was later suspected that this could be due to another virus, the infection of which affected the brain. Maybe enteroviruses.
At one time, it was not possible to get a clear answer, and over the years it continued to be investigated, analyzing samples of the brains of patients that could be preserved. A relatively recent investigation in 2004 concluded that a virus may not actually be the cause of the infection. In his case, they point to a mutation in the genetic material. Bacteria of the genus Streptococcus. Under normal circumstances, they only cause a mild sore throat. However, when mutated, they will cause an overreaction of the immune system, which will kill the bacteria, but also severely damage the cells of the nervous system. This is an option, although also incomprehensible.
The only thing we can say is that it had nothing to do with spells or Sandman. But that doesn’t make it any less mysterious. After all, real life also has its mysteries.
Source: Hiper Textual