How long can humans keep not sleep?
- Feb 09, 2018 -

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How long can humanity stay awake? The simple answer based on the actual case is 264 hours (about 11 days). In 1965, Randy Gardner, a 17-year-old high school student, made the world record under full monitoring. In other studies, healthy subjects stay awake for up to 8-10 days under strictly monitored experimental conditions. None of these subjects experienced serious neurological, physical or mental problems. However, as time spent on sleep deprivation increased, all subjects experienced noticeable decline in attention, a decline in perceived ability, and impairment in other high-level thought processes. However, after one or two nights of restorative sleep, all subjects returned to normal. In addition, there are also reports that soldiers can stay awake for four days and four nights during combat, and manic patients without medication can keep not sleep for three or four days.


In animal experiments, we can understand the possible consequences in more extreme cases. Studies by the Allan Rechtschaffen Sleep Lab at the University of Chicago have shown that persistent sleep deprivation for more than two weeks inevitably results in the death of experimental rats. In the experiment, rats were placed on a turntable above the pool and separated by a fixed partition. The researchers continuously monitored the brainwaves of rats by instruments and computer programs and identified whether they slept. Once the rats in the experimental group fell asleep, the turntable began to rotate, awaking them, whereas the rats in the control group were able to sleep freely when the rats in the experimental group were awake. The exact cause of death in these sleep-deprived rats is unclear, but this may be related to systemic hypermetabolism.


Let's go back to the beginning of the question. How long is the limit for human beings awake? We do not know the final answer. No matter in the experiments of rats in Chicago, at least I have not seen any report about the death of human being directly caused by lack of sleep (except accidents). In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense also provided research grants to study how to keep soldiers completely awake in a week. Future warriors will face consecutive weeks of intense day and night continuous high-intensity combat. Bioengineering will eventually create a cloning of non-sleepless warriors it?