Sleep deprivation sounds like lots and lots of fun
March 23, 2007 11:04 AM   Subscribe

i haven not slept in 126 hrs. my mental aptitude is completely shot. words that come out of my mout are completely random ; nonsensicle...dropping into bed will be GOOD FEELNGI.. How long can you stay awake? This guy made it just over 5 days, and kept a journal. Randy Gardner holds the world record of 11 days, which he set as a high school student in 1964. On the fourth day he had a delusion that he was Paul Lowe winning the Rose Bowl, and that a street sign was a person. Previously: [1], [2]
posted by gottabefunky (114 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
For anyone thinking of trying this, please be careful, it's a dangerous activity. You can easily break your brain.
posted by Area Control at 11:07 AM on March 23, 2007

I'm amazed at the sheer willpower. I once stayed up for 30 hours straight, and by the end of it I was literally falling asleep standing up.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:10 AM on March 23, 2007

I stayed awake once for 90 hours, and I ended up having full blown hallucinations. Shadow people and like things crawling up the walls and everything else. It was quite scary. I don't recommend it.
posted by empath at 11:10 AM on March 23, 2007

I think "nonsensicle" is my new favorite non-word.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:13 AM on March 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

my record was 5 days. No way in hell I could do that now.
Yeah hallucinations. I eventually fell asleep under some stairs on a beanbag chair in the college library, fell asleep about 8am, woke up when they where closing at 11pm. Took me about 2 weeks before things where back to normal.

Been awake 30 - 40 hours quite often.
Sleep dep is cheaper than drugs, but not as fun
posted by edgeways at 11:16 AM on March 23, 2007

Ah, sleep deprivation, my only friend.
posted by aubilenon at 11:22 AM on March 23, 2007

*in best yoda impersonation*

Good coke, this is!
posted by phaedon at 11:29 AM on March 23, 2007

I've topped out at somewhere around 30-35 hours once. In the end, I just couldn't hang on. I too am amazed by the willpower of these guys.

Also, while I'm sure it's not the best thing to do to the human body, I highly doubt it'll have a huge, long lasting effect on an otherwise healthy _young_ person.
posted by triolus at 11:31 AM on March 23, 2007

I think I was up for 30 - 48 hours or so once or twice.
posted by delmoi at 11:35 AM on March 23, 2007

My personal 'best' is nearly 8 days, with about two hours of nap time in the hours between 7 and 9 am. The comedown when I finally let myself sleep, it felt like I had been bitten by tiny ants everywhere I could feel. I did the same foolish thing a few months later and hated the comedown so much I swore it off. Get some sleep!
posted by now i'm piste at 11:42 AM on March 23, 2007

My wife and I were stupid enough to try and crate train a bulldog puppy nine years ago this month. For the first 10 days, I do not believe I got more than one hour worth of sleep per night, due to the endless yelping, barking and whining. While I have no recollection of any hallucinations, everything I experienced that week was in the third person, out of body, truly bizarre.

I'm told I wrote three lengthy, highly detailed and excellent functional specifications that week, and even reading them later on, I don't remember doing any of it.
posted by psmealey at 11:43 AM on March 23, 2007

30-36 three or four times, 44 once. couldn't do that now, although on average I seem to need less sleep per night than I used to.
posted by juv3nal at 11:46 AM on March 23, 2007

i hear a cat mewo despite thatfact thast i own no cats.
posted by foot at 11:47 AM on March 23, 2007 [7 favorites]

sleep dep was my favorite drug of choice while a teetotaler. It makes EVERYTHING more interesting. I self-enforced a rule of not driving after I was into the second day. my record was something like 72 hours. but I used to have a schedule where I pulled an all-nighter every Sat. night (worked at 6am on Sunday mornings) and every other week there'd be another one mid-week.

Debilitating, but awesome.
posted by Busithoth at 11:50 AM on March 23, 2007

Dittoing the fact that this is a pretty good way to fuck yourself up.
posted by unSane at 11:51 AM on March 23, 2007

About four days (five? six? three? I'm hazy on details) while living in the dorms. The key is to be physically active the whole time. Having an engaging conversation at least, walking around or doing something is better. The entertainment is easier to come by when you have friends who are also crazy and not sleeping. Caffeine obviously helps too. My streak was ended by a calculus class.
posted by agentofselection at 11:53 AM on March 23, 2007

Yeah, but the question remains, how long can you stay awake while subsisting only on Monkey Chow?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:54 AM on March 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

Went 56 hours with only a 3 hour nap in the middle - that was surprisingly easy since I was fairly busy helping run an Ultimate Frisbee tournament most of the time. I slept solidly for 17 hours afterwards though.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:54 AM on March 23, 2007

Yea I stayed up for about 36 hrs (finals, then drinking, then volleyball with drinking), and I was giddy and weird and twitchy and emotionally over-wrought. I felt like I had really let my volleyball pals down. Slept for 16 hrs. after that and felt like a new man!
posted by Mister_A at 11:55 AM on March 23, 2007

40 or so hours is my record. Around the second night I was trying to complete a package design comp, laying ruling tape in horizontal rows and repeatedly pulling them up because they would squirm into semicircles when I wasn't looking. When I saw my work later, there were nothing but perfectly-straight pick patterns in the paper.
posted by ardgedee at 11:55 AM on March 23, 2007

I did around 62 hours, a few months ago.

I had the chance to sleep at around 48 hours, but found that I couldn't (it was morning). It wasn't until that night at near a normal bedtime that I finally crashed.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 11:56 AM on March 23, 2007

My streak was ended by a calculus class.

Happened to me several times. I had been awake for 2, maybe 3 hours before calculus did me in.

I often made it 6 hours without sleep, but that was on the days I had quantum physics in the afternoon.
posted by GuyZero at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

5 days. It was pretty fucking awful. It was when I was a teenager and I had a deadline and my agent was pressuring me. I only used coffee - but a lot of it. In the end I walked into the publishers office shaking and twitching like a broken clockwork toy and then threw up. The stuff I'd done was crap. In that state you think that you're working and you keep hacking away at stuff even though everything becomes more and more strange and hallucinogenic - but when it's all over you look at what you've done and it's invariably shit, and you'll have to do it all again.

I couldn't do five days again now, and I wouldn't want to (though I'd like to still be *able to*).
posted by silence at 11:58 AM on March 23, 2007

I once stayed awake for 18 and a half consecutive hours. Hated it.

I'm going home to take a nap now.

Mmmmmm. Naps.
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:02 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

100 hours for an edit. (personal project.) Two 30+ hour edits last year. Slept for 20 hours (10 + a meal+ 10 more.) Sore after that.

Learn to get 20 min sleep (and no longer) when needed.
posted by filmgeek at 12:03 PM on March 23, 2007

I did two back to back all nighters for a job once in the freezing dead of winter. I drove home at the 60 hour mark. I fell asleep driving the car, and only woke up when I bumped into the curb. It obviously could have been a lot worse.

I drove the rest of the way home with all the windows down, freezing air hitting my face, with my eyes wide, screaming.

If you decide to do this, please please do not drive.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:04 PM on March 23, 2007 [8 favorites]

The worst part, I found after doing 91 sleepless hours, is indeed the comedown. Waking between 6 and 7, not knowing whether it's the morning or the evening, is really traumatic.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:05 PM on March 23, 2007

About 50-60 hours. I pull an all-nighter about once every three months now, but I get on average about five hours of sleep per night. I probably need more, but it doesn't seem debilitating. Famous last words.
posted by maxwelton at 12:06 PM on March 23, 2007

The best (worst?) I ever managed was about 36 hours, and when I finally made it into bed the feeling of resting horzontally with my eyes closed was almost sexual.

11 days? That's just not right.
posted by lekvar at 12:08 PM on March 23, 2007

72+ hours 3 or 4 times back in what I refer to as "the lost years". However, those efforts were, shall we say, chemically augmented, so I'm not sure that they count.

One of the last times, I worked doubles on three consecutive days and, for some reason, thought it made sense to just stay up the whole time. Missed my next shift and got fired when I slept for 20 hours after the third day.
posted by qldaddy at 12:15 PM on March 23, 2007

When I went back to school in my early thirties to finish my undergraduate degree, I discovered that I was no longer able to stay up all night no matter how hard I tried. Somewhere between the ages of 22 and 31, my brain decided that it needs at least 5 hours of sleep and no amount of caffeine will keep it from getting that. I would try to stay up late to study or write and my brain would send me a signal saying, "you have five minutes to find a be because I'm shutting down."
posted by octothorpe at 12:16 PM on March 23, 2007

My friend in high school, a huge, huge procrastinator, got stuck doing all his college applications right before deadline, and thus getting no sleep. He was quite amusing to be with, but had olfactory hallucinations, which was something I'd never heard of. He was absolutely certain that he could smell fried chicken coming from his kitchen, even though the kitchen was empty and there was no smell at all.
posted by Bugbread at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2007

Yow! The Wikipedia article on Slee Deprivation cites articles that link sleep dep to obesity and type 2 diabetes! No more all-nighters for me!
posted by lekvar at 12:21 PM on March 23, 2007

All these posts and not one reference to The Machinist? Come on people!
posted by MikeMc at 12:27 PM on March 23, 2007

I once went a week on minimal sleep, a day or two and whenever I saw traffic barrels at night, I'd swear there were people sitting on top of them.
posted by drezdn at 12:29 PM on March 23, 2007

I could swear I once read that Charles Lindbergh kept alertly awake by skimming the waves and scooping water on his face during his famous solo Atlantic flight (33 and a half hours). But apparently he only kept the window open for really, really cold air. Boring:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:29 PM on March 23, 2007

Since we all seem to be listing our records, 88 hours on Christmas vacation when I was 16 (Ultima Online had been released and I was young and stupid), and 60-70 hours every weekend the following summer (Quake 1 tourney scene on MPlayer was how I made pocket cash instead of mowing lawns). At the end of the 88 I was slightly delusional and completely incoherent.

I still frequently go 48 straight (I did 40 three days ago), which is miserable but doable. It's the 60 hour mark where things get truly nasty.
posted by Ryvar at 12:29 PM on March 23, 2007

My wife and I were stupid enough to try and crate train a bulldog puppy nine years ago this month. For the first 10 days, I do not believe I got more than one hour worth of sleep per night, due to the endless yelping, barking and whining. While I have no recollection of any hallucinations, everything I experienced that week was in the third person, out of body, truly bizarre.

Amateur. Try doing that for a year or so with a colicky baby.
posted by jokeefe at 12:30 PM on March 23, 2007

It was daylight when you woke up in your ditch. You looked up at your sky then. That made blue be your color. You had your knife there with you too. When you stood up there was goo all over your clothes. Your hands were sticky. You wiped them on your grass, so now your color was green. Oh Lord, why did everything always have to keep changing like this. You were already getting nervous again. Your head hurt and it rang when you stood up. Your head was almost empty. It always hurt you when you woke up like this. You crawled up out of your ditch onto your gravel road and began to walk, waiting for the rest of your mind to come back to you. You can see the car parked far down the road and you walked toward it. "If God is our Father," you thought, "then Satan must be our cousin." Why didn't anyone else understand these important things? You got to your car and tried all the doors. They were locked. It was a red car and it was new. There was an expensive leather camera case laying on the seat. Out across your field, you could see two tiny people walking by your woods. You began to walk towards them. Now red was your color and, of course, those little people out there were yours too.
- Tool: Disgustipated

I never fully understood this ending till about 70 hours of being awake.
posted by quin at 12:30 PM on March 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

I did 3 days straight once, towards the end of my University Honours degree. I was talking a lot on IRC at the time, and logs indicate that... well... you know how on one episode of The Simpsons Apu thinks he 's a hummingbird? Well, I actually saw a hummingbird flying around my house. For the record, Wikipedia confirms there are no hummingbirds in Australia.

Finally, the linked article was very interesting, but my bullshit detector is going off a little bit. At around the 65 hour mark of my stint, the only thing keeping me writing my assignments and my ramblings on IRC was caffeine, so how he found the ability to write anything at the 126 hour mark after stopping to use caffeine at around 114 hours seems... unlikely.

But then, I have not stayed up 126 hours, so what would I know, right?
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:32 PM on March 23, 2007

Used to do 36-40 hour blocks during college. Not recommended.

One cross-North America trip, I vastly underestimated how long it's take to drive from Toronto to Calgary (for some stupid reason crossing the boarder twice instead of just zipping along the TransCanada).

By the time I was climbing the Rockies to Calgary I was deathly afraid that I'd drive off the side of the mountain (I also had a hard time convincing myself not to drive off deliberately) and I hallucinated that I somehow acquired a person-sized animated teddy bear as a passenger in the front seat. The thing that annoyed me was that it kept on talking on and on about itself.

Just before entering city limits, I began to think that I was driving under delicate ivory bridges and that intricate ghostly spires lined the highway.
posted by porpoise at 12:32 PM on March 23, 2007

48 hours. Much more and I'd probably just fall asleep unless I was under some sort of sleep deprivation torture. I then slept for 16 hours solid.
posted by dagnyscott at 12:33 PM on March 23, 2007

Old hat to 40 hour work sessions and have done it at least once a week since '94. The key? A good nap.

Seriously: 20 minutes at most and just before dawn. Wake-up to light (and a LOUD alarm clock). It buys you a little normality and doesn't brain your damage.
posted by hal9k at 12:39 PM on March 23, 2007

I did 100+ hours years ago; I remember hallucinating the last day or two. It broke something in my brain: I haven't been able to miss a night's sleep and work since.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 12:41 PM on March 23, 2007

I tried to do 50 while in HS. I made it to 48 and conked out. Interestingly enough, I was pretty suave at about 42-44 hours because I sweet talked a cute girl into making out with me, which was not SOP for me at the time.

I recall being very greasy, but not hallucinating.

I worked a 24-hour shift in college as a cook at a greasy spoon. I could have worked more, but a waitress had just pulled a 38 hour one and I knew I couldn't beat it. My feet were terribly swollen.
posted by unixrat at 12:46 PM on March 23, 2007

i haven not slept in 126 hrs.

This is also when Finnegans Wake was written and best read.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:51 PM on March 23, 2007

I did a week where I only slept ten hours the whole week, on account of a day job and a music festival in town. Also drank a lot. At teh end of it all, I ran five miles, and then didn't even make it to the bed to fall asleep.
posted by notsnot at 12:56 PM on March 23, 2007

(DRTFA) I once did 4 days. Was seeing rats everywhere by day 3.

Gardner was observed through his ordeal by sleep research pioneer William Dement, who tells the story in his excellent (though overlong) book The Promise of Sleep.
posted by neuron at 12:56 PM on March 23, 2007

*That's "Didn't RTFA", BTW.
posted by neuron at 12:57 PM on March 23, 2007

Around 100+ hours for me (4-5 days) during a particularly stressful nasty period in my life. Severe hallucinations and just all around suckyness. The world becomes a very very strange and horrible place when you havent slept in 5 days and things that you would never consider doing suddenly become not only reasonable, but imperative. I dont recommend it.

When I found myself walking out to my car, getting inside, tuning the CD player.... and then realizing that I hadnt actually moved from my computer chair, I decided that I really really needed to get some sleep.

11 days is insane.
posted by elendil71 at 12:58 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

‘bout a week - although that was with catnaps, but also with physical exertion. I don’t know how Gardner played basketball after the 5th day without killing someone. My aggression level was through the sky. And I’d oscillate between insane fury and a monk-like serene calm drift back into lucidity, which was sort of the precursor for sleep. I did dream on my feet. That was interesting. I kept thinking about the samurai and how they could march or ride while sleeping. My hallucinations were more situational and omission based. Like that tree isn’t there. Or “I am already moving” kind of thing. I think I could withstand pretty much any torture. Chuckle while they pull out my fingernails and such, but if I don’t get a good nights sleep I’m a big marshmellow. “Man, it’s 3 am wanted to know my mission? Sure, I’ll tell you all about it, just let me at that couch.”
Physical exertion seems to be the key in staying awake though. I’d bet one of those ultramarathoners could do two weeks with no sleep. But yeah, the big question is - why?
I mean the answer to sleep deprivation seems to be “it really screws you up.”
And I really really like dreaming. Reason enough for all that downtime.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:59 PM on March 23, 2007

I've done over 100 hours in a row before. I never hallucinated, though I did feel pretty rotten by the last day. I thought it was pretty anti-climactic.

The REM rebound effect as I slept for just shy of 20 hours was awesome, however.
posted by Lafe at 1:02 PM on March 23, 2007

As a teetotalling, God-fearing undergrad, used to schedule two/three 36-hour sleepless shifts a semester "to stay in training" (read "for the buzz"). During one such, the campus paper ran my photo on page 2 ('Some random student uses new computer lab'), and I had to go sit in the dark until the world stopped being a hollow Trumam Show-esque construct.

On the whole, it's easier just not to be a God-fearing teetotaller.
posted by ormondsacker at 1:06 PM on March 23, 2007

oh yeah!
I did go the first 5 days in a new apartment with my girlfriend (my one cat and her 4 fought CONSTANTLY). I forgot all about that. she could sleep through it, or would leave to sleep at her parent's house, and I would endure endure endure, trying to mediate between my cat and the others (only two of which were really putting up a fight, but my boy wasn't putting up with any of their shit...)

hahaha, those journal entries are still priceless.

the 5th day wasn't wholly awake, I fell asleep before dusk (I found that if I could just make it to the night, I'd be re-energized, but the sun drained my strength like kryptonite)

so ~110 hours, and I have never wished to recreate that particular experience.

the day after you do sleep after a bout of sleep dep, you feel like you can take on the fucking world, I tell you. hyper-efficient.
posted by Busithoth at 1:08 PM on March 23, 2007

Personal "best" is about 28, CQ duty while I was in the Army - wake up at 6am, start my shift at the desk at 9am, and get off at 9am the next morning.

It wasn't too bad at first - those of us who lived in that building could bring our computers down to the desk and play Quake III, which definitely keeps you awake - but like all good things, that eventually came to an end. Afterwards, it was like, "My God, it's 0330, this SUCKS..." and you end up pacing back and forth, back and forth in front of the desk trying to stay awake. Good times!
posted by zbaco at 1:09 PM on March 23, 2007

The first two nights I had my kitten he hid behind a dresser and meowed loudly the entire night. I didn't sleep those nights. Seven years later he still wakes me several times a night.
posted by mike3k at 1:10 PM on March 23, 2007

I work in publishing, so we regularly do 14s.
Done a bunch of 24s, a few 36s, a handful of 48s and like two or three 50+s.

Its really not too terrible if you keep drinking water and get up from the computer every now and again.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:11 PM on March 23, 2007

I went about 70 hours back in the dorms, and I remember deciding I'd had enough when windows began to swirl into vortexes. I don't regret it one bit, and it only took a week to catch back up to my old sleep routine.

Last year, I went to Coachella and stayed up for approximately the same amount of time. The fatigue didn't really hit me until I was driving us all home (9 hours!). Certainly didn't help that everyone else in the car was fast asleep the entire ride. I remember feeling some fits of a "second consciousness" that felt akin to lucid dreaming. Windows down and screaming along to music was my only path to staying awake.

Fourthing the recommendation not to drive under sleep deprivation.
posted by Mach3avelli at 1:11 PM on March 23, 2007

I meant 14 hour shifts, which is kind of irrelevant.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:12 PM on March 23, 2007

I mean the answer to sleep deprivation seems to be “it really screws you up.

Well, don't forget the thrill of the competition!

(These may be NSFW.)
posted by Old Man Wilson at 1:12 PM on March 23, 2007

I remember seeing a show about Fatal Familial Insomnia (freaky), and it talked about Peter Tripp, the DJ who stayed awake as publicity stunt. Those interviewed said he was never the same, almost like it turned him into a sociopath.
posted by peep at 1:16 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Every year my work requires at least one 40 hour on-the-clock odyssey that ends with a live broadcast on a nationwide broadcast. I love the feeling, it's a sort of high with some strange clarity but lotsa fatigue in there as well.

But I also did a few months of 1 or 2 hours a night during a really (really) stressful part of my life. Looking back, I worked, carried on a new relationship, travelled, took a ton of pictures, the whole bit. I'll be damned if I remember a single moment of it, other than the fact that Soledad O'Brien's (CNN morning show, at least at the time) voice gives me the willies.

All in all, I wish I could sleep like my cats.
posted by nevercalm at 1:16 PM on March 23, 2007

I remember seeing a show about Fatal Familial Insomnia (freaky), and it talked about Peter Tripp, the DJ who stayed awake as publicity stunt. Those interviewed said he was never the same, almost like it turned him into a sociopath.

I've seen that show, and he was the first thing I thought of when I saw this thread - surprised he didn't come up sooner.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:30 PM on March 23, 2007

I'd like to see someone bosted with Provigil / Modafinil try to break that 11 day record. Seems like it would be a piece of cake.
posted by jaimev at 1:40 PM on March 23, 2007

a friend and I drove from austin texas to las vegas in one stint without a wink... about a 20 hour drive, then stayed up nearly another day and gambled and drank. i was a puddle by the end of all of this, and somehow believed that if i went to sleep i would never wake up. next time, i flew to vegas.
posted by breakfast_yeti at 1:53 PM on March 23, 2007

I am lucky, for some value of the word, to have an immense capacity to operate without sleep. As the original gulf war broke the mainstream press here in the states, I was at an art opening in Greenfield, MA. For the next 120+ hours, I stayed awake, unable to sleep, but with the uncanny ability to recall virtually everything CNN said. On the blackboards of each room I had class in I vigorously wrote out every bit of news I had seen, sometimes spanning three walls before a professor stopped me. Mostly, people were fascinated by my ability to recall things, but I supposed I was also amusing with my "peace hat", a paper chefs hat that students had been signing throughout my experience. I also war a white armband as a silent, non disruptive manner of protest, since most classes didn't allow hats.

I did not hallucinate, per se. I simply became something else entirely for the length of my wakefulness. As time went on, I thought quicker, though my ability to communicate was somewhat impaired by my inability to slow down. I don't remember much else about that period of time, but I snapped immediately back into a normal sleep routine.

Since then, I regularly go upwards of three days without sleep at all, longer on less than an hour of sleep a night, and have gone two weeks sleeping an hour and a half twice a day several times in my life.

Back in August of 1999, I was awake for days on end. I don't even remember how long, but I know it was longer than three days. I desperately wanted to sleep, but I couldn't turn my brain off, so I wrote a Perl module. Its function was relatively benign, but the code was the densest, most obfuscated code I had ever written. Even though I've since commented it, cleaned it up to some degree, and worked on it numerous times since that first night, I still have to actually decode it every time I work on it.

On the flip side, I can remember a day back in 1999, before the sleep deprivation event noted above, where I was at this consulting gig and living in a rented room in the remaining parts of the combat zone in Boston. I was generally sleep deprived, but nothing out of the ordinary when one Thursday I feel asleep late, as in after 2:00 am, woke up to relieve myself at some point whilst it was dark and woke up thinking it was the next morning. It turned out to be the Saturday morning and I had been asleep for more than 24 hours. I even got fired from the gig for missing work.

The longest I slept since then is about 18 hours, but stretches of slumber lasting longer than 12 hours in my life can probably be counted on one hand.
posted by sequential at 1:54 PM on March 23, 2007

Say, isn't it about time for tkchrist to launch into a monologue about the time he went without sleep for eight days during the Mixed Martial Arts Tournament? Where are you man? Make with the tales!
posted by lekvar at 2:19 PM on March 23, 2007

This entire thread makes me long desperately for a nap.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:20 PM on March 23, 2007

Ugh. Increasing caffeine sensitivity has recently had me testing my own limits here. The worst recent case was somewhere between three and four days -- no hallucinations, but my thinking was definitely getting fuzzy enough that I'd be hard-put to pin down exactly how many days it was. The bit that really stood out to me at the time, however, was the effect on language and motor control -- I was posting a lengthy LiveJournal rant a bit before I finally crashed and aside from being exceptionally disjointed and rambly, simple typos were utterly out of control -- it took me more than half an hour to edit the post after I'd finished typing it, because I suddenly couldn't even enter simple HTML codes without messing something up.

But boy oh boy did I ever sleep soundly when I finally managed to crash.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 2:23 PM on March 23, 2007

What the hell guys? 36 hours awake is not impressive. That's a single all-nighter. I've played a single video game for 28 hours straight, and stopped when it was time to go meet some friends.

It's only when you get past 40 hours that things start getting difficult/weird.
posted by aubilenon at 2:34 PM on March 23, 2007

I started getting really nauseated at about 36 hours or so, long before anything cool could have started happening, and decided that given the choice of "sleep" or "puke," I'd surrender and go to bed.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:45 PM on March 23, 2007

Don't turn into Peter Tripp!
posted by billyliberty at 2:45 PM on March 23, 2007

I'm with ya aubilenon. I've easily done 36-48 hours without sleep far too many times, and that's because of work, which means I've been working 16 or more hours a day during those periods. Try that on for size sometime.

Probably the worst though was nearly two weeks of such constant work that I only slept 2-5 hours a night with constant work otherwise. That was painful.

Then there are the benders with buddies, where far too often I'll have been up all night the last night for work, and then the bender night comes on where we're out all night terrorizing the town...Saturday is then a painful, painful day.

But what the hell - I regularly have 3 hour nights, and while I don't particularly like it, it isn't exactly hard. What sucks is being tired all week.
posted by Muddler at 2:53 PM on March 23, 2007

There seems to be a huge variation in how much sleep people need to function. My longest stint was about 36 hours when I was a teenager and now in my thirties I regularly need 8 hours sleep. If I don't get enough sleep or if I'm tired I become very mean. I cannot imagine what it's like to stay up for two days straight, let alone 11.
posted by ob at 3:08 PM on March 23, 2007

The thing I like about an all-nighter is that for someone like me who has trouble falling asleep, the easy sleep of the following night is amazing. I feel the same way about general anesthetic. On a normal night, it takes me two-three hours to fall asleep. Always has been that way.
posted by maxwelton at 3:08 PM on March 23, 2007

Nintey hours, which was done after maybe 5 hours of sleep. With drugs, anything is possible.
posted by spaltavian at 3:21 PM on March 23, 2007

I just want to mention the distinction between voluntary and involuntary sleep deprivation here.

Prolonged involuntary sleep deprivation is torture and is often used by torturers in order to induce confessions. It has a profoundly detrimental effect on mental health and you can do it without leaving marks.

People often think "Oh I did that" so it can't be torture. Not true-- it's a completely different physiological and psychological experience to do something voluntarily as opposed to being forced to do it. Lack of control ramps up stress and this exacerbates harm to the brain.
posted by Maias at 3:22 PM on March 23, 2007

40 hours starts to get difficult, 60 is where i start to really lose it.

my record is 6 hours of sleep in the middle of 130 hours awake. more impressive is that i wrote a paper on an all-nighter, drove to a debate tournament, debated for two days, drove back, wrote another paper on an all-nighter, and then went to class. in class i had visual hallucinations for the only time ever. pretty mild, though -- some checkered-tile floors were undulating a little bit.

i think i slept for about 18 hours straight after that.

my roommate that year once slept for 26 hours straight. that was pretty impressive to me.
posted by spiderwire at 3:27 PM on March 23, 2007

Been up with a sick baby mucho hours, that’s a big involuntary. Although I suppose it’s different in that it’s a labor of love.
Come to think of it, I don’t believe I’ve missed that much sleep when I’ve had any real choice in the matter.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:32 PM on March 23, 2007

My personal record is 79 hours, during which I wrote two exams and a 45 page engineering design document. During the last 10 hours or so, I had so much caffeine in me that I thought I actually might die. My heart was beating like a jackhammer, even though I had been sedentary for almost the whole ordeal, which terrified me to no end.

On the last page of my assignment I wrote a note for my professor describing what I had just been though. I finished it with: "I hope this is worth it". When I got it back, I saw that he (or maybe a TA) had replied with "It really isn't". I still don't know what to think about that.
posted by tracert at 3:35 PM on March 23, 2007

I dont know if it's the dry desert air, or my love of neon and fat tourists, but I find it impossible to sleep while in Las Vegas. I once played Blackjack for 6 straight hours after not having slept for about 48 hours. My emotions were so out of whack that at one point, i got a blackjack after placing an illogically large bet, and burst into tears. I remember thinking that if this is how gambling addicts feel all the time, it must really suck to be a gambling addict.
posted by billyfleetwood at 3:37 PM on March 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

I recall being very greasy, but not hallucinating.
Have you considered the possibility that you were not, in fact, greasy?
posted by Flunkie at 3:44 PM on March 23, 2007 [3 favorites]

It has a profoundly detrimental effect on mental health and you can do it without leaving marks.

Probably you mean cannot. Unless you are imagining very gentle sleep-torturers.
posted by voltairemodern at 3:54 PM on March 23, 2007

About 80 hours, for me. It was to meet a project deadline.

The last 10-12 hours, I was pretty much useless. Mild hallucinations, etc.. Shoulda just gone home, since the project didn't make deadline, after all. :-/

I drove home (bad idea) and, finally going to bed, I remember I felt like the disembodied shadow of somebody's corpse. Never again.
posted by darkstar at 3:57 PM on March 23, 2007

You people....are insane!
I topped out at around 40 hours. I pulled an all-nighter to study for a class I failed anyways. Stayed awake on pixi-sticks and Mellow Yellow. SO not recommended if you value...anything.
The night after my all-nighter, I went to Waffle House with some friends and was perfectly fine until 9pm. All of a sudden everyone started staring as me as my eyes become amazingly bloodshot as if I were a druggie and crashed in about 2 minutes. I couldn't become to imagine pulling 2 all-nighters in a row.
posted by jmd82 at 4:07 PM on March 23, 2007

Anybody else remember how a few years ago, they were talking about some new drug that the military was testing that made people stay awake for days straight and apparently did no damage to your body?

I wonder what ever happened with that...
posted by Afroblanco at 4:10 PM on March 23, 2007

it's a completely different physiological and psychological experience to do something voluntarily as opposed to being forced to do it. Lack of control ramps up stress and this exacerbates harm to the brain.

I am well aware of the long-term effects of involuntary wakefulness. I live with a toddler.
posted by lekvar at 4:24 PM on March 23, 2007

Suffering from insomnia on and off for the last six years (though it has mercifully let up some this year) I cannot find this amusing or enlightening. It only serves to remind me that the rest of the planet has no struggle to find sweet refuge under their eye lids every night.
posted by tkchrist at 4:31 PM on March 23, 2007

Suffering from insomnia on and off for the last six years (though it has mercifully let up some this year) I cannot find this amusing or enlightening. It only serves to remind me that the rest of the planet has no struggle to find sweet refuge under their eye lids every night.

Agreed. Having developed insomnia in the last few years, it's pretty miserable.
posted by spiderwire at 4:36 PM on March 23, 2007

Freshman year midterm week plus play rehearsal meant 4-5 days with, at most, a couple of hour-long naps. I got pretty sick off that one. The best moment was, on the fourth day, walking up a set of outdoor steps and seeing a pirate walk down the same steps towards me. I freaked out, thinking that this was it, I was finally hallucinating. As the pirate got ever closer, I at last remembered that today was my university's official "Hallowe'en" and that the pirate was a costume, but a real one.

My friend, an architecture student, has gone days in the studio. My favourite story of her sleep deprivation involves her looking through a window and seeing a greyscale cone outside on a branch. It was actually a bird.
posted by ilana at 4:55 PM on March 23, 2007

Anybody else remember how a few years ago, they were talking about some new drug that the military was testing that made people stay awake for days straight and apparently did no damage to your body?

I wonder what ever happened with that...

While back in college, I was out with some friends (cute girls) at a tapioca tea house. This one sketchy character kept glancing over at us from the opposite end of the cafe, the girls got all weirded out, and we naturally started making fun of the awkward guy/situation.

Before I knew it, the guy actually came over and tried to talk to one of the girls. Sensing the panic, I stepped up and continued the conversation with him. He first started talking about his military background and showed off his army tattoos (he was a ripped guy). He had shifty eyes and spoke with improper pauses in his breath. Somehow he forgot about the girls and was completely focused on me, as I was probably the first person to acknowledge his presence in a long time.

Our conversation came to a lull, and so I nonchalantly turned away and went back to my conversation with the girls. And he just stood there. For probably around 5 minutes, silently, but listening. We did our best to ignore him. I forgot what the reason was for, but I pinched my friend's leg. She let out a little yelp and slapped my leg back. Suddenly the guy blurts out, "I'll protect you with my katana if you want!" We all thought he was joking around, so my friend played along and was all, "Yeah, sure!"

Without missing a beat, the guy runs out of the place and to his car. He pulls something out of the trunk and dashes back in. The next thing I know, he's holding a wooden stick to the back of my head with a gleeful smile on his face. I had a good read on the guy and realized he just had a perverted sense of humor and wasn't going to do anything, but the girls were scared shitless.

With whatever strain of social competence this character had, he read the situation and put his stick down. To diffuse the moment, I started talking to him again. He went off about how he used the stick as a prepatory weapon in his martial arts class. He then went outside to demonstrate and hurt the living hell out of poor air molecules.

He came back in, panting. Somehow we got on the subject of fitness (I'm a personal trainer) and fatigue, and he told me about how he was a guinea pig in the military on this amazing sleepless drug that allowed him to stay awake for a week without issues.

And that last paragraph was the point of my segue, but the context was important. Maybe now we know why it hasn't become popularized.
posted by Mach3avelli at 4:58 PM on March 23, 2007 [5 favorites]

On my junior leadership course I went the first 96 hours in the field with a 30 minute rest, and got a total of 90 minutes sleep over a seven day period. Oh, and I was outdoors the whole time.

My daily routine was as follows:

6am - 7am, toiletries.
7am - 8am, prepare, eat, clean meal, morning briefing.
8am - 12h00, battle procedures / pepper potting / advance to contact
12h00 - 13h00, prepare eat and clean meal
13h00 - 17h00, battle procedures / pepper potting / advance to contact
17h00 - 19h00, prepare, eat, clean meal, bend over, here comes your warning order.
19h00 - 24h00, preparation for the nightly recce patrols. If you weren't leading it then you were the 2ic, and if you weren't the 2ic then you were scrambling around getting things ready.
24h00 - 5h30, huffing it on the recce patrol
5h30-6h00, debrief intelligence

Any time between the Int debrief and 6am was your own. I had a groundsheet as a tent and my sleeping bag never came out one, I used my gasmask pouch as a pillow on those three naps. Brutal, but the pure physical challenge made the whole thing quite lucid. They pumped us so hard, it's the only time I had abs my whole life. sigh...
posted by furtive at 5:07 PM on March 23, 2007

voltairemodern writes "Probably you mean cannot. Unless you are imagining very gentle sleep-torturers."

No, I'm pretty sure he/she meant "can". If you firebrand folks, or cut them, or break their bones, marks will remain. If you just prevent them from going to sleep, you're also torturing them, but after a good night's rest, there is no physical evidence: no scars, no black eyes, no burns.
posted by Bugbread at 5:19 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seven days (nearly 170 hours).

This was the second semester of my freshman year, and was done for a history seminar that required a paper a week. I had done none, though I had done all the readings. The second-to-last class, our professor told us that he would be accepting papers at the beginning of the next class (in a week's time), and that would be the last chance to turn them in. I then spent the next week reading and writing, reading some more and writing some more. I gave everyone on my floor strict instructions not to disturb me under penalty of pain, and my roommate generously offered to stay home that week (his family lived near campus).

About 4 days in I started hearing things. I thought I heard people knocking on my door, taunting me. I would rush up and throw the door open, and no one was there. This happened repeatedly over the next few days. That was the extent of my hallucinations.

In the end I printed the last page about 5 minutes after the last class started, I then ran about two blocks to the classroom, tried to catch my breath and casually sit down, but it was a small seminar with about 10 people in it, so the entire class stopped and looked at me. I guess I looked terrible, and the professor took my huge stack of papers from me and told me to go back to the dorms and get some sleep. I did... about 18 hours of it. The only drug I used to keep me up was wonderful, wonderful caffeine.

And I got an A- in the class.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:04 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I work in publishing, so we regularly do 14s.

Would that be magazines? Cause I work in book publishing, and we regularly take 2 hour lunches and leave at 4:30. We don't get paid shit, but the hours are v. nice.
posted by emjaybee at 6:25 PM on March 23, 2007

emjaybee, my bet's on desktop publishing (which I do). 3 shifts of 12 hrs a week, plus overtime as needed. these get extended, as necessary, to 15+ hours. but I still run home to nap, because I cannot function professionally at that level of sleep dep. though, I also knew a magazine editor who pulled crazy shifts (15+ hrs) for deadline every week, but the typical day was much more normal. still, tangential to the whole sleep dep thang.
posted by Busithoth at 6:37 PM on March 23, 2007

I've done many, many 24 hours stints but after a 48 hour jaunt (which involved an aircraft carrier, two helicopters, a spell on a beach in spain, some sangria, a plane ride, and a production meeting) I became convinced I was going to die.

That was quite enough for me.

I also recall being sleep deprived and fighting with an editor for six hours about a particular problem on a documentary. We both went home and came in the next morning and had it fixedi in *literally* one minute.

Now I sleep.
posted by unSane at 7:04 PM on March 23, 2007

I did a 72 hour stint for my high school senior English paper. Twenty years later, which was two weeks ago, I did another 72 hours on the last days of my Master's Thesis. I guess I haven't changed all that much. The last 12 hours involved 10 hours at work, then dinner with family members in town. I distinctly remember eating 9 Leprechauns, a one-armed armadillo named Clyde from Oklahoma, and a fire-breathing porpoise that kept trying to get away from my plate by dancing the merengue. My aunt and cousin didn't even bat an eye when I took a bite of Clyde's scaled tail.

The first time involved a couple pots of coffee, the second a couple pots of black tea. Oddly enough the second time around was easier, although most of my leg hair fell out a week later. I'm assuming it was related.

Unless I go for a doctorate (not gonna happen) my sleep-deprivation years are officially over. My half bald legs are dancing the jig with the porpoise and her friend Clyde as I write this.
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 7:58 PM on March 23, 2007

I sleep now.
posted by sciurus at 8:11 PM on March 23, 2007

I've made it four days. On acid.

Disqualified! You might have been awake, but you were still dreaming.
posted by psmealey at 8:31 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd like to see someone bosted with Provigil / Modafinil try to break that 11 day record. Seems like it would be a piece of cake.

Ugh, no. Speaking from pretty significant personal experience, Provigil is absolutely amazing at shaking off the need to sleep, but it does not effectively mitigate the secondary cognitive impairment symptoms that accompany longterm sleep deprivation. Probably owing to it being one of the most localized psychotropic drugs available (which is why it is considered one of the safest wakefulness inducing drugs).

You won't feel the need to sleep, but trust me after 60 hours Provigil or no you will still feel like utter shit.
posted by Ryvar at 9:13 PM on March 23, 2007

i haven not slept in 126 hrs.

This is also when Finnegans Wake was written and best read.

I once tried to read Ulysses as a cure for insomnia. I figured if anything could put me to sleep, it'd be James Joyce. How wrong I was. I only made it 670 pages in and I couldn't tell you a goddamned thing about it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:22 PM on March 23, 2007

What happened to that guy from East Asia that didn't need to sleep? Wouldn't staying awake for 30-some years kind of shatter all these records?
posted by tehloki at 9:38 PM on March 23, 2007

I remember seeing a show about Fatal Familial Insomnia (freaky), and it talked about Peter Tripp, the DJ who stayed awake as publicity stunt. Those interviewed said he was never the same, almost like it turned him into a sociopath.

Thank you peep ... I remembered seeing this show and wanted to read more about this, but couldn't remember what it was called and none of my Google-guesses were turning up results. Very scary, but the whole aspect of sleep deprivation & insomnia is really interesting to me.
posted by tastybrains at 9:38 PM on March 23, 2007

After 60-70 hours, it's easy to stay awake without any caffeine or other exogenous stimulants because:
1. It's impossible to get comfortable enough to fall asleep when your muscles twitch, your joints are made of broken glass, and the entire left side of your body is covered in boiling water. No comfortable positions. Less painful to keep moving. People with chronic pain have this type of insomnia without needing to stay awake for 3 nights first.
2. If you do find the magic position, the hypnagogic hallucinations of chainsaw-wielding succubi give you the adrenaline rush to keep awake for several hours until another set of hypnagogic chainsaw-wielding succubi. Less painful to stay awake watching Freddy movies.
3. When you finally resort to downers and alcohol with hopes to pass out whether you're being chased, chopped up, or boiled, you get an adrenaline rush from the hypochondriacal paranoia that two milwaukee's and an ambien could kill you in this state. You could turn over on your face in your sleep, your body too exhausted to move itself should you start suffocating.
4. You still lie in bed thinking about all the other things you could be accomplishing, too delusional to realize you're better off taking another sleeping pill or drinking another beer because anything you do will need to be redone anyway.
5. If you are the type of person who regularly stays awake 2-3 nights in a row, you probably don't keep track anymore and live alone as a result of isolating anyone who ever cared for you.
posted by srs at 10:37 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Anybody else reminded of the Stephen King novella The Long Walk?
posted by milquetoast at 11:25 PM on March 23, 2007

Did 50-60 hrs straight in engineering school, pulling 2 consecutive all-nighters. By the end of it, I was hallucinating vividly, which scared the shit out of me when a demon appeared in front of me. I knew it wasn't real, though, and just decided to hallucinate a beautiful nekked girl. To my surprise, it worked. It worked perfectly. I was literally able to see anything I wanted -- although I kept coming back to the girl...

It was like lucid dreaming, only I was awake. Both very cool and completely not recommended.

Speaking of which, it's past my bedtime. 'Night all.
posted by LordSludge at 11:29 PM on March 23, 2007

I hypothesize that on the twelfth day all the doors in your mind open; all the self-imposed boundaries melt away; and all the mysteries of space and time unfold before you like a flower.

Then you get to have sex with it.
posted by Ritchie at 1:39 AM on March 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

The thing with Peter Tripp is that he was using Ritalin to stay awake, so his subsequent apparent personality changes can't be simply attributed to the lack of sleep. Typically, after a long period of sleep deprivation like that, people go to sleep for ages and wake up feeling pretty normal again. This is what happened with Randy Gardner (who didn't use any stimulants). At the end of his stunt, he slept for 15 hours, then a little more sleep than usual the next night, then his sleeping pattern went back to normal. But a lack of sleep will kill you - rats will die after a couple of weeks without being allowed to sleep, all exhibiting the same horrible symptoms (skin lesions, weight loss despite increased food intake, drop in body temperature, etc).

Source: this book, which is a fun and fascinating read. Makes a good argument that we need to take sleep more seriously.

I've got "Guacamole" by Super Furry Animals in my head now.
posted by terrynutkins at 2:19 AM on March 24, 2007

I usually sleep once, for 12 hours or more, every 2 days. Something about my internal clock is off. I guess that explains why I'm commenting on mefi at 5:30am
posted by tehloki at 2:30 AM on March 24, 2007

Four-ish days. One research thesis that is still up on a certain university website.

No hallucinations, just a friendly chat with winged creature with green scales[1] who called himself Ahura Mazda [2] on this picnic bench in my alma mater. He initially was trying to speak in Sanskrit, but I politely replied back in my usual Indian-accented English, so he also later switched to English.

After I submitted my thesis, which concluded with a shoutout with my sup, and some 18 hours of sleep, he stopped appearing. But my first job out of college was equally sleep-depravating, and so he started to speak to me like any radio-broadcaster would.

In fact, we once exchanged viewpoints on this; I politely pointed out that if he were a radio, I'd be trying to search for the volume knob. He replied saying that I'll never be able to switch my receiver off. Our conversations were always chilly, but this was when it started being chilling.

He was, of course, actually itching to taunt me all along. One night, he sent some Triad-style goons into my room while I was sleeping; they appeared out of nowhere, and silently slept next to me and on top of me, flaunting their obvious supernatural powers.

The next day I saw a psychologist who recommended medication. Seroquel insidiously made things quiet for me; it was like wearing spectacles for the first time after you've gotten myopia. All sounds become distinct; it's the difference between a portable radio and, say, canal earphones.

And then, one night, it all unravelled. Those Triad goons made one fatal mistake; in an apparent effort to beat the medicine's effects, they appeared in a dream I was dreaming while I was dreaming.

I'll say that again. I was dreaming that I was sleeping. In that sleep, I was dreaming. In that dream, these thugs appeared. It was the first time I could see them without _feeling_ their presence. And that sensation, it was liberating. I had trapped them in a metacircular evaluator from which they couldn't emerge onto a level where they could make me feel things. If you can't feel them, they don't exist.

I haven't seen them ever since.

I'm again doing late nights these days at work, the flat is getting to be a little more spooky than before, but I now insist on at least five hours of shut-eye.

(Some facts embellished for narrative's sake. Seroquel, though, is true and is thoroughly recommended, but only if you've been professionally advised to take it.)
[1] - As in 'green scales fell like rain', from 'Puff, The Magic Dragon' (wiki)

[2] - Nope, I always knew he was just some confused person trying to have a cool Persian name he didn't understand, and that he wasn't the real dude. I respect Zorastrianism.
posted by the cydonian at 3:19 AM on March 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

haha, I love that. "no hallucinations, but [description of some crazy psychedelic mind trip]."
posted by tehloki at 7:31 AM on March 24, 2007

If depriving yourself of sleep is something you're considering doing for fun in the future, just make sure you don't make any moral judgements.
posted by ikahime at 8:23 AM on March 24, 2007

Once upon a time, in my far-off youth, I was addicted to sleep deprivation. Yes, you can get addicted to it. Some of you should consider whether you are in that state currently.

My addiction was bounded and supported by the holy trinity of caffeine, nicotine, and pot. Visine kept the facts hidden from any who mattered. I routinely worked 36 hours before going home to sleep, though I often then either took a day off or only worked a normal shift.
posted by Goofyy at 7:35 AM on March 26, 2007

« Older Dancing robots as educational toys   |   To Write Love On Her Arms Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments