The Longest Now


Weeklong sleeplessnesses
Monday May 04th 2009, 2:16 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Reading through the Torture Memos, I found one useful tidbit : an improved lower bound on how long one can last under stress without sleep.

During a particularly busy week in college, I once spent 4+ days without sleep (just over 100 hours), and remember the world had a certain quivering texture, and that I heard occasional faint singing in the background, the last day.  I wasn’t exhausted when I had dinner and went to sleep at last, but certainly slept soundly for the next dozen or so hours.  So I’ve often wondered what the accepted limits on healthy sleeplessness are.

Well, now I know with a bit more detail : those human health heroes who also advise no more than 4 hours of waterboarding sessions and 24 minutes of simulated drowning in a 24-hour period (else you might start to inflict permanent physical or mental harm) say : no more than 7.5 days (180 hrs) without sleep before resting for a full 8 hours.  If any of you manage longer than that, let me know…


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A friend of mine landed himself in the psych ward after about a week of no sleep, after a bad drug experience. Little permanent harm, perhaps, but certainly short-term harm; the psychosis was real enough at the time, and was not later forgotten. People are different, of course, but I have always been a bit worried about people who push the upper bound of sleeplessness, and the particular kind of bad judgment that comes with it.

Long traveling experience says about 30 hours is my limit; more and I’m a danger to myself and others. 4 days, let alone a week, is outside of comprehension; there’s a reason they call it torture.

Comment by p. 05.05.09 @ 12:40 am



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