Sleep Deprivation; Testing Our Limits

Sleep deprivation cases


sleep deprivation effects


Sleep deprivation is common among insomniacs, depressed patients and stressed people. The inability to sleep itself only adds to the stress already experienced by the sufferers. However, there are cases in which an individual or a group tests the theories of sleep deprivation and put their bodies and minds to serious tests. This is usually for the basis of exploring the science of sleep and gaining extra knowledge about the world of sleep, sometimes though, people deprive themselves of sleep for charity or on record-breaking grounds.

Short term lack of sleep in which we are all familiar causes the expected tiredness, moodiness and fatigue. However the effects that are experienced in long term sleep deprivation cases can include hallucination and paranoia. When tests on sleep deficit are conducted, one is usually testing whether:

· There is evidence of the theory behind sleep providing restoration.

· Lack of sleep has any effect on the biological functions of the body.

· Methods applied in sleep study are effective.

As mentioned, there are sleep deprivation cases intended to achieve the goals observed above and those for sheer enjoyment. Both of these have been explored below.

Peter Tripp

This man spent 201 hours and 10 minutes without sleep so as to attempt to break the sleep record (260 hours 17 minutes at the time). He spent many of these hours sitting in a glass booth at Times Square. He was a famous disc jockey so he spent some time spinning records while maintaining his 3 hour day job as a radio presenter. Tripp would often begin to fall asleep. This prompted nursed to shake him to wake him up. Doctors present would tell him jokes and play games with him. When this method became monotonous, they gave him tests to take. This would keep his brain active and stop him from getting the urge to fall asleep.

A few days into this fascinating sleep deficit case, the subject began to hallucinate. He imagined kittens and mice searching for money in drawers. Tripp began seeing cobwebs on the walls inside the booth. He blamed a technician for these troubles. Tripp said that the technician had placed an electrode in one of his shoes. This seemed like another of Peter Tripp’s hallucinations.

This case, like many sleep deprivation cases, was very problematic. The subject experienced a greater need to fall asleep which caused doctors and nurses to administer drugs. Scientists and medical experts on site wanted to know how far the human body could be pushed. All this occurred in the last 66 hours of the stunt. Peter Tripp went on to achieve popularity after his career was tarnished in a 1960 scandal. This was when most people heard of his sleep deficiency attempt.


Randy Gardner

Notably, any individual who lacks sleep during the night ends up tired and unable to operate well the next day. This may lead to unintended naps during the day. These naps cause one to waste productive hours on sleep. There are those who have attempted to challenge the notion that lack of sleep affects one’s inability to process tasks efficiently. One such brave individual is Randy Gardner. In 1965, Randy decided to conduct a study on sleep deprivation as part of a school science project. He managed to stay awake for 11 days and 24 minutes (264.4 hours). His progress was documented by two of his classmates and Dr. William Dement, a sleep researcher. His health was monitored by Commander John Ross.

John Ross reported that during the 11 days, sleep deficit took a heavy toll on Randy Gardner. He began to hallucinate and believed the research team thought he was stupid. Mood changes and inability to maintain concentration were also reported. Randy’s vision became blurred and his speech was slurred. However, on his final day he was able to hold a press conference without slurring. Surprisingly, lack of sleep had a heavy effect on this boy but he was able to maintain his senses when he wanted to.

When Gardner was able to sleep again, he only slept for 14 hours and 40 minutes. He woke up naturally and engaged in everyday tasks. Despite this activity, there were no long term effects to be reported. There have been varying reports about this case on sleep deprivation. Dement suggested that Gardner displayed limited mood changes while Ross suggested otherwise. Dement stated that he took Gardner out to play pinball on the 10th day of this experiment. Gardner displayed excellent pinball skills that caused him to win. This gave rise to the question on which part of the brain sleep affects.

There are, however, several instances of paranoia displayed by randy Gardner. Gardner pictured a street light as a person and himself as a black footballer. This is the only heavily documented of the few sleep deprivation cases (that have not involved drug administration) available.

Tom Soini

A month after Gardner’s attempt at sleep deficiency, Tom Soini of Finland tried his hand at it too. He did so for the basis of entering the Guinness Book of Records. He was able to beat Randy Gardner’s record by a few hours. There is little documentation of this attempt which has subsequently caused confusion over the years. Tony Wright broke randy Gardner’s record but was aware of Tom Soini’s. He stayed awake for 266 hours maintaining a raw food diet. He also operated on the principle that one can reinforce the thoughts and cause their brain to stay awake for days. Lack of information about Soini caused Wright to miss the Guinness World Record by a whisker. The Guinness Book of Records removed records about sleep withdrawal to avoid people risking their lives for this title.

Sleep deprivation during the night causes one to wake up feeling tired and lacking energy. It causes one to feel incapable of handling a variety of tasks. One is unable to fathom what 260 hours without sleep does to another individual. Why one would be willing to put their health at risk in order to earn a title is a notion that will not be understood by many people. Randy Gardner attempted to deprive himself of sleep to see how capable his body was without it. His was a test of knowledge. There are still those who attempt to break known records to date. However, the most famous of sleep deprivation cases remains that of Randy Gardner



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