TODAY | November 26, 2012
>> introduced you to a teenager with a condition that would cause her to sleep for weeks, even months on end. well, this morning you're going to meet a lawyer who suffers from a different sleep disorder , one that can be just as debilitating but one with hope. gabe gutierrez is here with that story, good morning, gabe.
>> reporter: researchers are hoping to revolutionize the treatment of this major sleeping disorder that often affects women, but for one patient it's also a race against time to keep getting the medicine that changed her life.
>> my bed was my health. it was everything.
>> reporter: for everything sleep was an obsess.
>> like an addiction. would i hit a point in the day where i thought if i don't go to sleep right now i will literally not survive.
>> reporter: she was no slacker working at a major law firm in atlanta after graduating from princeton and duke, but anna 's life was falling apart. sleeping up to 18 hours the a day but never feeling rested.
>> my rock bottom was sleeping for 53 hours. i felt helpless.
>> reporter: so she took a leave of absence and headed to emory university 's sleep lab where doctors checked everything. it wasn't a thyroid problem or depression. doctors discovered an entirely new cause, something they found in 31 other patients like anna . their research just published in the medical journal "science translational medicine ."
>> the body is producing a substance that acts very much like a sedative.
>> reporter: that sedative, doctors say acts like anesthesia. in tests, patient response times are as slow as people who are legally drunk and this disorder could affect 1 in 800 people. to treat it doctors are using a drug that's normally used to help surgery patients wake up from anesthesia. vicky rush got the iv drug once during emory's research.
>> the fog was lifted. you just felt like you were really awake.
>> reporter: but so far anna sumner is the only patient taking the medicine daily in bill form thanks to a research donation from a drug company .
>> i was existing before treatment, but i wasn't living.
>> reporter: she's able to do tasks she was never able to do before but her medicine runs out next year.
>> the thought is almost terrorizing.
>> reporter: now she's on a mission to help the drug industry mass produce this drug.
>> it gives me the luxury of life.
>> reporter: a luxury she never thought possible, not just sleep
but rest: doctors say the drug is the only effective treatment of the disorder which is so newly discovered is t doesn't even have a name yet. savannah.
>> gabe gutierrez in atlanta, thank you.