Fatigue, difficulty concentrating and irritability – they are just three known side effects of even one night of insufficient sleep.
But imagine going 11 days without sleeping a wink.
That’s exactly what a father of three from Cornwall did in 2007, hoping to break the world record for the longest time without sleep.
Although Tony Wright’s 266-hour sleepless marathon ultimately failed to win the prize, it did give him fascinating insights into how sleepless mental states change.
While Tony Wright’s (pictured) 266-hour sleepless marathon (pictured) ultimately didn’t take credit, it did give him fascinating insights into how sleepless mental states change
Sleep deprivation occurs when a person does not close enough eyes to support their health and well-being, which takes a toll on mental and physical health
Adults are advised to get about eight hours of sleep per night, with a longer duration recommended for children.
Sleep deprivation occurs when a person doesn’t get enough shut-eye to support their health and well-being, which takes a toll on mental and physical health.
But despite the risks, in May 2007 Mr. Wright took on the challenge of staying awake for a week and a half.
He was followed throughout the challenge by a webcam and CCTV cameras at his local bar in Penzance.
Mr. Wright mostly ate raw fruits and vegetables and drank tea. And to pass the time he played pool.
HOW MUCH SLEEP SHOULD I GET?
Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep each night.
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every night programs the brain and internal body clock to get used to a set routine.
Few people manage to stick to strict bedtime patterns.
To fall asleep more easily, the NHS advises cutting down, such as taking a bath, reading and avoiding electronic devices.
The health department also recommends keeping the bedroom sleep-friendly by removing TVs and gadgets from the room and keeping it dark and uncluttered.
For people who have trouble sleeping, the NHS says keeping a sleep diary can uncover lifestyle habits or activities that contribute to sleepiness.
Source: health service
Looking back on the experience in an interview shortly after the experiment, he claimed that staying awake “long enough” starves the “rational mind,” meaning the “batteries are basically running out.”
Mr Wright admitted that you get tired of it and ‘don’t feel very well’, but the ‘rational mind”s ability to stay in charge ‘also starts to break down’.
He said, “That’s where you begin to glimpse access to the other side of the brain, the other self.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people about this. Most people have memories of partying or hard work.
“Of course they get tired, but inside they get a glimpse of something else.
“That kind of softness or a more relaxed state and often more emotional, because again, there’s more access to that emotional side of the brain.”
“Even if you’re feeling pretty good, quite an altered state for short windows, or even getting a second wind.” You know, being really, really tired, not sleeping, and then suddenly feeling good for half an hour or an hour.
“What I was interested in is understanding that. And was it possible to take advantage of that and introduce combined techniques to engage the left side of the brain that doesn’t feel great at first, but the reward on the other side makes it worth it.”
Mr Wright was inspired to take part in the challenge after taking part in a trial at Manchester Metropolitan University in 1998 in which he remained awake for five days.
He said the study results showed that his physical performance, strength, endurance and balance improved or remained the same.
So he set out to break the world record for insomnia to “show that the accepted theory is wrong and that fatigue does not make the brain less effective,” Wright said at the time.
After his 11-day challenge, he admitted that he felt “weird,” that his eyes became “really sensitive,” and that there were “awkward moments” where he felt his body “wanted to shut down.”
While Mr. Wright is in favor of sleep deprivation, the Guinness World Records are not, as they no longer keep track due to the serious health risks associated with sleep deprivation.
The last person to hold the record was Robert McDonald in 1986. He went 453 hours and 40 minutes without sleep. This corresponds to 18 days 21 hours and 40 minutes.
In an article published last month, the organization said, “While we no longer check the record due to the inherent dangers associated with sleep deprivation, we can say no one is known to have broken it since McDonald.”
The first person to be credited with the record “insomnia” was Florida radio DJ Dave Hunter in 1959. He stayed awake for 225 hours.
There are numerous health problems associated with sleep deprivation, including obesity, diabetes, and long-term cardiovascular disease.
A lack of shut-eye can lead to daytime sleepiness, decreased mental function, mood swings, decreased immune function, and weight gain.