He stayed awake for 264 hours to see what would happen

The results of the 1964 experiment

weekendmegpand 1312x819 Randy Gardner, insomnia, experiment, sleep

Take a few minutes and think about how you feel every time you have not slept well, you have slept very little or not at all. Fatigue, nerves and a constant heaviness in the eyes are just some of its side effects insomnia. Now think about whether you could ever stay awake for days. To be precise, for 11 days, that is, for 264 hours. It definitely sounds like a joke or the script of a movie that will be released soon.

But it is not. This record was broken in January 1964 by 17-year-old Randy Gardner, who decided with two friends to do this experiment to see the effects of insomnia on the physical and mental functioning of the human body. Their experiment became one of the hottest topics in the news after Kennedy's assassination and the Beatles' visit to America!

The original idea for the experiment came from high school student Bruce McAllister who wanted to present it as a science paper in the classroom. "Initially I wanted to investigate the effect of insomnia on paranormal fitness. We realized that there was no way to do that and so we decided to look at the effect of insomnia on cognitive abilities, even our ability to play basketball. "Everything we could find," he said.

The two friends tossed a coin to see who would take on the role of guinea pig and the role of observer. So Randy would be the one to stay awake. But the original plan was not very successful because they were both forced to stay awake. "We were stupid, young and stupid," Bruce said. "I was forced to stay awake to watch him. And after three days of insomnia I found myself writing my remarks on the wall instead of the paper! "

So another friend, Joe Marciano, was invited to the team to lend a helping hand. The experiment had caught the interest of the media. Somehow, from an article in the San Diego newspaper, it was learned what was happening and William Dement from Stanford University, who did research on the subject of sleep.

"I was the only person on the planet at the time who did this kind of research. Randy's parents were very worried that one experiment would be very bad for their child's health. "And that's because at that time the question remained whether or not insomnia could lead to death," William said.

Dement's involvement in the experiment was the one that actually highlighted Gardner's case as he was the one who recorded the situation he was in and the side effects he had.

The side effects

Years later, in 2017, at the age of 69, Randy described the side effects of insomnia on US National Public Radio (NPR).

"I felt very nauseous in the morning. And then I started eating citrus fruits. For some reason tangerines and oranges relieved nausea. I felt crazy when I could not remember anything. "It was like I was in the early stages of Alzheimer's," he said. The young man also experienced hallucinations while unable to make additions and subtractions as he forgot what he had to do.

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Photo from YouTube

Despite the onset of these symptoms, Randy was optimistic about the outcome of the experiment and the breaking of the insomnia record. However, as the days went by when he was not sleeping at all, he started to have other side effects. The animal began to complain about the odors that under normal conditions did not bother him. "He used to say about different foods and objects, 'Don't make me smell this, I can't stand it,'" Bruce McAllister recalls.

However, he could play basketball better than before. "She was OK. So throughout the experiment we could play basketball or bowling. "If he closed his eyes he would fall asleep immediately," McAllister said.

The nights of course were very difficult as there was not much to do and 17 year old Randy had to find things to keep him awake. In fact, as part of the experiment, he did not take chemicals, only occasional consumption of Coca Cola.

The conclusions

The interest of the media was growing, although a portion characterized the experiment as a teenage prank. But Randy wanted to break the record. And he did it. On January 8, 1864, after 11 days of insomnia - a total of 264 hours - the 17-year-old broke the record of insomnia.

So after breaking the record he did not fall asleep as one would expect. Instead, Randy was admitted to a Navy hospital, where he was wired to study his brain activity.

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On the first day, the 17-year-old slept for a total of 14 hours. "He slept for 14 hours - it did not surprise us - and he actually woke up because he wanted to go to the toilet. On the first night the rate of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep jumped from the average (lasts 90-120 minutes). On the second day it decreased until it returned to normal. And then he got up and went to school. It was incredible, "said Professor William Dement.

Measurements showed that during Gardner's 11-day insomnia, parts of his brain occasionally fell asleep, while the rest remained active. "He was not the first man or pre-man to stay awake for more than one night. The brain has evolved to sleep partially to restore some areas. And that explains why the worst was prevented, "explains the professor.

But how did Randy feel? "I remember when I woke up I was grumpy, but no more than any other drowsy person. In the following days and weeks I did not feel the need for more sleep. I returned to my normal life, everything was fine. Isn't that weird? " he said during an interview with NPR at the age of 69.

His body, however, seems to have avenged him, he says. "10 years ago I started having insomnia. It was something like karmic revenge. It was like my body was saying to me “okay dude, 11 days without sleep while you know you need it? See now how it really is! ” I had become awful. Everything was bothering me. It was like continuing what I had done 50 years ago. "

With such an experience behind him, Randy Gardner has some advice to give us. "You have to sleep. Water, food, sleep are the important trinity. You must have them. ALL".