To live a long and healthy life, doctors always recommend getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. Anything less than that could be detrimental to both your physical and mental health. But have you ever wondered what might happen to your body if you don’t sleep for a few days?
Back in 1963, Randy Gardner went almost 300 hours without going to sleep for a science experiment, but it left long-lasting consequences on his mind and body.
A science fair project
Randy Gardner and his classmate Bruce McAllister had cooked up a neat idea for their science fair project—they wanted to find out how long they could stay awake and what side-effects would occur along the way. To decide which of the two would be the guinea pig for the experiment, they flipped a coin and Gardner, who was 17 at the time, did not have luck on his side.
His partner McAllister stayed awake to monitor him, but eventually needed to hire another recruit so that they could take turns observing Gardner. McAllister told BBC:
We were idiots, you know young idiots, and I stayed awake with him to monitor him.
After three night of sleeplessness myself, I woke up tipped against the wall, writing notes on the wall itself.
According to the study—which was examined by Stanford sleep researcher Dr. William Dement and US Navy medic Lieutenant Commander John J. Ross—Gardner began feeling the effects of sleep deprivation after the second day without sleep. To stay awake, he played basketball and pinball with his peers.
By the third day, he became emotional and uncoordinated, and LadBible reported that on the fifth day he began seeing hallucinations.
Gardner stayed awake for a total of 264.4 hours—that's 11 days and 25 minutes!—for his science experiment, but walked away with side effects that lasted decades. WBUR stated that he suffered from insomnia and sleeping difficulties for many years following his project.