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How long can a man stay awake?

Jerome Siegel and his colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles, discovered that newborn dolphins and whales do not close their eyes together during about a month. Because of their children’s wakefulness, their moms also have to stay awake and look after them, regardless of the fact that they used to sleep for 5-8 hours per day. Little by little, the babies begin to introduce regular sleeping hours to their daily routine. The scientists assume that it is an instinct of self-preservation. Having their eyes open, they can prevent a possible danger of being eaten by predators. Furthermore, in such a way they can maintain a normal body temperature.

Can a human being be awake for such a long time? What is the longest wakeful period for a human ever recorded? Is it safe?

There were several attempts in a world history to achieve a record of being awake longer than anybody else.

Randy Gardner, a 17-year-old student from San Diego, California, the USA, managed to stay awake for 264.6 hours (that is 11 days and 24 minutes) in 1964. His record entered The Guinness Book of Records.

However, it was not that easy for Randy: each day was harder and harder to survive because numerous disorders, concerning both mental and physical state, were observed. After the first few sleepless nights, Randy became extremely tired and irritated. Then, he got tremor of fingers, his speech and thoughts became incoherent; his memory deteriorated. When he was asked to solve elementary problems, he could not cope with the task (or it seemed very difficult for him). Often, he could not remember what the task was while trying to fulfill it. Also, Randy suffered from hallucinations and paranoia.

There were several attempts to beat this record.

For example, in 2007, Tony Wright, a 42-year-old gardener from Cornwall, Great Britain, was not sleeping during 266 hours. Although he managed to overcome Randy Gardner, his record of staying awake the longest was not registered in The Guinness Book of Records. The thing is that before then, such a record category had already been excluded from the Book because staying awake 24 hours a day was acknowledged to be rather dangerous for human health and even life.

Mr. Wright admitted that he was preparing for such a stress for his organism. He made up and kept to a raw-food diet. He assures that it promotes working of different parts of a brain in turns to always maintain a life activity. Also, Tony was filming his existence without sleep and keeping a blog for BBC, but in ten days he stopped updating the blog because he could not write legibly anymore.

They say that in 1977 there was another attempt of beating the record within the limits of a scientific experiment. A woman managed to stay awake for about 18 days! However, the experiment was interrupted because she had hallucinations.

An all-time world record-holder who can stay awake longer than any other man on earth (including the people mentioned above) is the Vietnamese Thai Ngoc, born in 1942. He has been wakeful for 41 years already! As he asserts, he cannot fall asleep after a bout of fever in 1973, though experts say that the reason for his insomnia lies in something else. They still cannot define it though. He tried different means to cure insomnia – both of traditional and alternative medicine. Nothing has helped. This case is a miracle. Thorough medical examinations showed that this man is totally healthy in spite of the fact that he is 72-year-old and that he has not been sleeping a wink in the last 40 years. He also says that he feels good; he can do the work about the house and farm properly as always.

It is a proved fact already that a man cannot leave without sleep. If he/she tries, there will inevitably appear serious problems with health which will become more and more dangerous for a man’s life if he/she deprives his/her organism of a sufficient night sleep regularly, such as:

Let Tony Wright be the last person who has beaten a world record of staying awake.