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Mental Problems Caused by Sleep Deprivation and Is Proved by Experiments

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Airan is interested in investigating the social and health issue in Asia. Airan also doing research on effect of sleep disorder to health.

1) Experiment of Peter Tripp

To raise money for charity, the disc jockey, Peter Tripp decided to stay awake for 200 hours (over 8 days) while doing his daily 3-hour radio show. A number of psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists and other medical professionals quickly contacted him and advised him against it.

Tripp chose to trust a number of uncorroborated statements from researchers and military personnel who claimed to have stayed awake for up to 10 days in severe situations without any negative consequences.

To be safe, he agreed to have some of these psychologists and medical professionals monitor his endeavor.

Tripp survived the 200-hour challenge, but not without significant mental degeneration. During the trauma, his ideas became increasingly distorted, and he had frequent bouts of insanity. Indeed, he exhibited psychosis-like behavior.

Tripp, after 4 days without sleep, could not perform even the simplest of assessments, which require a certain amount of focused attention. "Here's a seasoned New York DJ trying in vain to get through the alphabet," one of the psychiatrists said.

Tripp also began experiencing hallucinations and altered visual impressions. At one point, he became agitated because he mistook dots on a table for bugs. He was sure there were spiders crawling around the booth he was sitting in, and once he reported that they had spun cobwebs onto his shoes.

Hallucinations and altered visual impressions.

Hallucinations and altered visual impressions.

He said that objects seemed to change size unpredictably and that the clock in front of him seemed to look at him with a human face. Tripp's behavior also began to change. He became increasingly anxious and suspicious, accusing those responsible for keeping time around him of "messing with the clock."

Things deteriorated toward the end. Tripp began to have delusions and became convinced that the doctors treating him were part of a plot to imprison him.

When, on the last morning of the "wak (e) athon," a physician in a black suit came to examine him, Tripp concluded that the man was really an undertaker preparing to bury him alive.

Having drawn this terrible conclusion, terror overcame him. With a scream, he rushed to the door and ran half-dressed down the corridor, while three doctors and a psychologist pursued him.

He could no longer distinguish between reality and a nightmare. Tripp could only be persuaded to make his final appearance in the glass booth after much coaxing.

At the end of 200 hours (actually 201, because the episode with the doctor and some subsequent tests lasted an hour longer), Tripp was led home, where he slept for 13 hours straight.

2) Randy's Experiment

Randy Gardner, a seventeen-year-old student who held the Guinness Book of World Records title for 264 hours (11 days) with no sleep in 1965, went through a similar hardship.

Randy had sporadic trouble focusing his eyes on Day 2 and had to stop watching TV for the duration, according to the doctor who performed a comprehensive neurological exam on him. He also showed symptoms of astereognosis, which is difficulty recognizing objects just by touch.

By Day 3, Randy's moodiness was evident, as were symptoms that his physical coordination and strength were decreasing, a condition known as ataxia. He also had difficulty reciting simple tongue twisters.

Randy's moodiness worsened on Day 4, and he became irritable and uncooperative. His mental abilities also deteriorated, with memory lapses and difficulty concentrating.
He experienced unusual sensations or misperceptions, such as a tight band around his head and the feeling of fog around street lights.

His first hallucination occurred around 3 a.m. when he mistook a street sign for a person. This was quickly followed by a delusional episode in which he imagined he was a famous football player.

On the 5th day, he noticed a path leading down from the chamber before him through a peaceful woodland. On the 6th day, his speech began to decline, and he had difficulty naming simple objects.

On days 7 and 8, Randy had sporadic bouts of slurred speech. He was again irritable and uncooperative. Memory lapses and difficulty concentrating became more apparent.

On Day 9, Randy began to think fragmentarily, and he regularly failed to finish statements. His hazy vision worsened, and his eyes wandered from side to side on their own.

On Day 10, he became paranoid, fearing he was being played for a fool.

On the 11th day, he seemed fine (with normal coordination and balance), but had mild muscle spasms in his fingers. He also had a small heart murmur.

His eyes could not focus well. His visage was described as "expressionless." His speech was slurred and without sound, and he had to be urged to speak in order to respond at all.

His attention span was extremely short, and his mental faculties were also slightly impaired. When asked to count backwards from 100 by subtracting 7 each time, he only got to 65 before stopping. When asked, he stated that he could not remember what he was supposed to do!

Randy returned home at the end of the show and slept 14.75 hours, about 6.75 hours longer than usual.

Conclusion

Even if sleep deprivation is stopped long before a person is in danger of dying, the psychological effects, such as hallucinations and mental decline, as seen in the previous examples from the book Sleep Thieves, can be more than unpleasant.

Sleep is necessary for us to maintain our normal mental interaction with the outside world. Prolonged sleep deprivation leads to feeling disconnected from the outside world and a sense of losing one's mind.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Airan Tan

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