How Long Can A Person Go Without Sleep
Continuous lack of sleep is more deadly than starvation. While lack of food can be borne for a few weeks, a person cannot survive without sleep for more than ten days. Laboratory experiments have found out that rats die after about 28 days when they are deprived of sleep. Continuous sleep deprivation causes psychological problems such as psychotic behavior and hallucinations after a few days.
Sleep Deprivation Records
According to a National Sleep and Research Project report, the record for someone staying awake continuously without suffering a sleep disorder is 18 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes. In 1963, Randy Gardner of San Diego, a high school student, experimented with staying awake for consecutive days for a science fair competition. He did not sleep at all for 264 hours (11 days). In May 2007, a Britisher called Tony Wright accomplished the feat of staying awake for 266 consecutive hours. He managed to do this by adopting a diet of bananas, pineapple, nuts, avocados and carrot juice.
Yet another famous continuous wakefulness stunt was tried in 1959, by a disc jockey named Peter Tripp. He stayed awake for more than eight days. Tripp suffered hallucinations and also became paranoid after a few days. The Guinness Book of World Records does not recognize any achievement in the dubious field of voluntary sleep deprivation because of the health risks involved.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
In the book Sleep Thieves, the author Stanley Coren narrates instances of people who have tried voluntarily to deprive themselves of sleep. Coren, a Canadian neuropsychologist, highlights the effect of lack of sleep on the human body and mind. Coren studies the effects of sleep deprivation on airline pilots, truck drivers, air traffic controllers, shift workers and hospital residents and interns. He also provides evidence that major disasters such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez were a result of mistakes by workers who had slept too little.