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The California teen who didn't sleep for 11 days winks to science

The California teen who didn't sleep for 11 days winks to science

“The lack of sleep made me feel like I had early-onset Alzheimer’s,” Randy Gardner recalled in 2017, then 71. In an interview with National Public Radio He talked about the experience when he didn't sleep for 11 days. It all started with a science competition in San Diego, which 17-year-old Gardner and his friends wanted to win.

In December 1963, during winter break, Gardner and his schoolmate Bruce McAllister came up with the idea of ​​breaking the world record for staying awake. They thought that this would definitely be enough to beat the other contestants who were also participating in the city science competition. The record at that time was 260 hours, which is ten days and twenty hours, which is one 23-year-old DJ Tom Rounds Prepare it by sitting in a department store window all the time.

Gardner and McAllister used a coin toss to determine who would be the experimental subject and who would be the experiment's observer, who would carefully record the effect of sleep deprivation on the others' cognitive abilities and performance on the basketball court. Luck was on McAllister's side, and he stood guard over Gardner for three days beginning December 28. Soon after, he realized that he had been leaning against the wall and taking notes in his sleep. But not on paper, but on wallpaper.

The regular searchers were joined by a friend named Joe Marciano, who along with McAllister witnessed Gardner's constant vigilance. They were also responsible for keeping their partner from falling asleep, so they did everything they could: Cold bath, loud music, lots of coke, And of course they regularly took him to the basketball court.

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As the days passed, the science project of the three San Diego teenagers became more and more known. Reporters came from all over the country to ask questions of Gardner, who had not slept in days. The experience generated a media sensation, and for a time suppressed news surrounding the Beatles' visit and the assassination of JFK in the American press. Professor at Stanford University, Dr. And also William C. Dement, who (according to his claim) was the only professional at the time who researched sleep more deeply.

What can you expect when you meet someone who has been sober for 8-9 days? Not much good, is it? In comparison, DeMint and Gardner played basketball and bowled, and Gardner even managed to beat a Stanford professor several times at pinball. Gardner did not seem particularly affected by the lack of sleep, and the most obvious symptom was that he was more irritable than usual. McAllister recalls that on one occasion, when Gardner's hearing, sight and smell were being tested, he rudely asked them to stop putting everything under his nose because the smells were bothering him. At one point, the teenager who was competing for the record was transferred to the Naval Hospital, where his brain was monitored with all kinds of instruments.

In the end, with 264 hours spent awake, Gardner was able to beat the world record, which of course the newspapers also wanted to report on. “On the last day, something inside me snapped for a moment. I remember lashing out at journalists who kept asking the same questions over and over again. But I was just a kid,” said Gardner, who slept in a hospital bed for 14 hours after setting the record. He woke up, said he felt lethargic, just average lethargy and hadn't acted at all like he hadn't slept a wink for the past week and a half.

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While Gardner tried to stay awake, those around him were constantly monitoring his mental and physical state. In an interview with NPR, Gardner said the experience wasn't very physically demanding, though he felt nauseous several times during it — he was more terrified of how sleep deprivation was affecting him mentally. He would forget things easily, become irritable and impatient. According to Dement, lack of sleep also affected Gardner's analytical and motor skills, while Dr. John Ross, who examined him before a Stanford University professor, described symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and difficulty concentrating.

A blindfolded Randy Gardner has to say what he smells like while his two schoolmates, Joe Marciano and Bruce McAllister, take notes – Image: Don Cravens/Getty Images

Gardner was not able to enjoy his record or his victory in the San Diego race for long, because two weeks later another young man from California, 20-year-old Jim Thomas, managed to stay awake for 266 and a half hours. However, Gardner's experiment and recordings made over 11 days contributed greatly to researchers' understanding of the phenomenon of partial sleep, which everyone has probably experienced, for example, when you doze off for a moment while sitting on the bus.

The last record holder to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the person who stayed awake the longest was Robert McDonald, also from California, who in 1986 went without sleep for approximately 454 hours, or nearly 19 days (at this point, he The record may beg the question of what might be in the California air.) Then Guinness decided to delete this category from the records because such experiments are very harmful to health.

Sleep deprivation can have really serious symptoms. the Health saysAfter 72 hours of waking up, a person practically loses touch with reality. He begins to hallucinate, hear and see things that are not really there, and may imagine that someone is planning behind his back or that he is on a secret mission.

Adequate quality and quantity of sleep are among the most important pillars of a healthy and balanced life. Our body and nervous system can regenerate during sleep, but we often reduce the time we devote to sleep, even though this can lead to serious health risks in the long term. In this article, we wrote about what we can do to sleep better.

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