Three Sleep Experiments That Went Horribly Wrong

Summary: Those who sleep well take sleep for granted, but for others, it’s not so simple. Everyone, however, seems fascinated with the reasons why people need to sleep. When those reasons are probed, sometimes the results are disastrous.

No Sleep Used as Torture
One of the worst horror stories about sleep deprivation is an urban legend known as The Russian Sleep Experiment. This is not a true story, thank goodness, but it does indicate the importance of sleep to mental health. You can read about it here if you love a good horror story with strong elements of truth, but what the story does indicate is how important we believe sleep is, and that we will become paranoid and insane if deprived of it.

What is true is that sleep deprivation was used by many governments as a form of torture. The CIA once admitted that they allowed prisoners under interrogation be kept awake for more than a week.

Beauty Sleep Turns out to Be Real
There has always been disagreement on how much sleep we need. Is it eight hours a day, or will four suffice? Is it important to get “beauty sleep?” In 2013, Swedish researchers studied how people look when they are sleep deprived and found that after 31 hours without sleep, people are judged as less attractive and much sadder than they did after a good night sleep. In 2017 the experiment was done again, and the 25 participants were judged as less healthy and less friendly. Perhaps that is not very surprising! Sleep is a natural anti-depressant.

No Sleep? See Spiders
The best-documented Guinness World Record holder for sleeplessness was a San Diego teenager named Randy Gardner who stayed awake for 11 days and 24 minutes. This experiment was supervised and documented by professional sleep researchers. Although he is said to have recovered easily after sleeping, and suffered no ill effects while awake, he also became paranoid and suffered hallucinations. It seems that people who go without sleep for a long time do share a common hallucination — they see spiders where there are not spiders. How much more motivation to sleep would anyone need?

Your Body Demands Sleep
It’s unpleasant and debilitating, but humans don’t die from lack of sleep. A mechanism in our brain ensures that we don’t. This failsafe causes micro sleeps for a period of 1 to 30 seconds. They happen more often than people may realize, but it shows that if people don’t give the brain what it needs, the brain will take it anyway, especially when it comes to proper rest.

On the other hand, there are negative consequences from these micro-sleeps. No one wants to lose control of how or when they fall asleep, and some of the most tragic accidents in history happened because someone was tired when they needed to be alert.

If sleep is a worry, there is help. CPAP Solutions Inc. has helped people who are suffering from sleep apnea get a good night’s sleep. See a sleep professional if quality sleep is something that eludes you.

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