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Sleep Research: Sleep Deprivation and the Randy Gardner Experiment

Sleep Deprivation Banner

For humans and animals, sleep is a necessity, almost equivalent to basic needs like food, water, clothing, and shelter. Without a certain amount of sleep, a person will not be able to function at a high level. The amount of sleep needed by a person is determined by various factors, and one of the factors is age. Generally, people tend to sleep lighter and for shorter timespans as they get older. Sleep is a physiological phenomenon where a person’s consciousness is suspended. Though it is believed that sleeping helps to rejuvenate the human body, it has also been observed that a mere 50 KCal of energy is saved by sleeping, which is approximately the amount of energy held by a piece of toast.

Sleep Deprivation

Have you ever tried to see how many hours you can go without sleeping? Sleep deprivation describes the condition in which a person is not having the adequate amount of sleep. People who work the third shift may be suffering from sleep deprivation and it can also happen to people who travel to a different time zone. Sleep deprivation makes it dangerous to operate a vehicle and it’s also dangerous for people who work in heavy industry or law enforcement. Some of the consequences of sleep deprivation include confusion, headaches, aching muscles, malaise, increased blood pressure, depression, bloodshot eyes, irritability, hallucinations, increased risk of diabetes, and even obesity. It is a common practice used in interrogation or torture.

Randy Gardner Experiment

Randy Gardner ExperimentRandy Gardner holds the record for intentional sleep deprivation, without the use of stimulants. The record was created in 1964 by the 17-year-old high school student in San Diego in California, where he remained awake for eleven days (264 hours). After the experiment, Randy appeared to be in good health. No negative effects were observed and there was no slurring or stumbling in his speech during the press conference. The experiment came to an end on the eleventh day when Gardner said that he forgot what he was doing, after being asked why he stopped at 65 when he was supposed to be subtracting 7 from 100 repeatedly. Throughout the experiment, Gardner was observed by Lt. Cmdr. John J. Ross who was the doctor in charge. In his reports, Ross noted that Gardner exhibited extreme cases of behavioral changes and cognitive problems, which included concentration problems, moodiness, memory loss, and hallucinations.

Some of the most frequent causes of sleep deprivation are stress, mental health conditions, and unrecognized sleep disorders. There are also other causes like drugs, alcohol, diet, travel, smoking, overwork, and depression. Though there is no set number of hours required for sleeping, on average, a person requires five to eleven hours. Sleep deprivation also has a severe impact on the functioning of a person’s brain. It can affect the parts of brain which control planning, memory, language, and sleep deprivation reduces the capabilities to react rapidly to changing environment as well as making rational judgments. Some other effects of sleep deprivation include:

  • Reduced alertness

  • Fatigue

  • Decreased memory

  • Decreased performance

  • Poor quality of life

  • Increased risk of occupational injury or automobile injury

  • It can even cause dark circles and result in formation of bags around the eyes

Guinness World Records and Sleep Deprivation

It is believed that the record created by Gardner was broken soon thereafter. However, the Randy Gardner experiment was most well-known because it was extensively documented and researched. The case of Randy Gardner provides exact information related to sleep deprivation and it is used to assess the medical problems related to sleep deprivation. Currently, the Guinness World Records is not keeping the record for sleep deprivation because it can bring about negative effects on the participants. People who suffer from untreated sleep deprivation can suffer from related medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity, heart failure, stroke, psychiatric problems, mental impairment, attention deficit disorder, fetal and childhood growth retardation, among other dangerous health complications.

Helpful Resources

Here are some resources on sleep deprivation.

  • What is Sleep?
  • How is Sleep Regulated?
  • Effects of Sleep Deprivation
  • Sleepless at Stanford
  • Overview of Sleep
  • What is Sleep Hygiene? (PDF)
  • A Look at Sleep from Different Angles
  • What is Sleep Study?
  • Good Sleep
  • More Information about Sleep
  • Stages of Sleep
  • General Psychology: Sleep
  • Non-REM Sleep
  • Sleep and Dreams
  • Information about Sleep and Stress
  • Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
  • Neurocognitive Consequences of Sleep Deprivation (PDF)
  • Adolescents at Risk of Sleep Deprivation (PDF)
  • What is Sleep Deprivation?
  • Why is Sleep Important?
  • Sleep Deprivation Links
  • Sleep Disorders & Sleep Deprivation (PDF)
  • The Fight Against Sleep Deprivation
  • Overview of Sleep Deprivation
  • How Much Sleep Do You Need?
  • More on Sleep Deprivation
  • Conclusions about Sleep Deprivation (PDF)
  • Catching up with Randy Gardner (PDF)
  • Memory & Sleep (PDF)
  • The Science of Sleep
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