Eleven Days Awake

25 10 2007

Eleven Days Awake
On the first day, Randy Gardner woke at six A.M. feeling alert and ready to go. By day two he had begun to drag, experiencing a fuzzy-headed lack of focus. When handed series of objects, he struggled to recognize them by touch alone. The third day he became uncharacteristically moody, snapping at his friends. He had trouble repeating common tongue twisters such as Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. By the fourth day, the sand-clawed demons of sleep were scraping at the back of his eyeballs. He suddenly and inexplicably hallucinated that he was Paul Lowe, a large black football player for the San Diego Chargers. Gardner, in reality, was white, seventeen years old, and 130 pounds soaking wet.

Gardner, a San Diego high school student, was the subject of a self-imposed sleep-deprivation experiment. He had resolved to find out what would happen to his mind and body if he stayed awake from December 28, 1963 to January 8, 1964, a total of 264 hours – eleven days. Assisting him were two classmates, Bruce McAllister and Joe Marciano Jr. They kept him awake and tracked his condition by administering a series of tests. They planned to enter the results in the Greater San Diego High School Science Fair. But transforming the ordeal from a science fair stunt into one of the most widely cited sleep-deprivation experiments ever conducted was the arrival of Stanford researcher William C. Dement, who flew down from Palo Alto to be with Randy as soon as he heard what was going on…

n 1984 1894 Russian physician Marie de Manaceine kept four puppies awake almost five days, at which point the puppies died. She reported that the research was “excessively painful,” not only for the puppies but for herself as well…The one thing they didn’t do was give him any drugs. Not even caffeine.

Ross J. (1965) “Neurological Findings After Prolonged Sleep Deprivation.” Archives of Neurology 12:399-403.

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