Ask the Experts; July 2002; Scientific American Magazine; by Staff Editor; 1 Page(s)
How long can humans stay awake? J. Christian Gillin is at the San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center and is professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, where he conducts research on sleep, chronobiology and mood disorders. Gillin supplies the following response:
The quick answer is 264 hours, or 11 days. In 1965 Randy Gardner, a 17-year-old high school student, set this apparent world record as a science-fair project. Several other research subjects have remained awake for eight to 10 days in carefully monitored experiments. None experienced serious medical or psychiatric problems, but all showed progressive and significant deficits in concentration, motivation, perception and other higher mental processes. Nevertheless, all returned to relative normalcy after one or two nights of sleep. Other, anecdotal reports describe soldiers staying awake for four days in battle and unmedicated patients with mania going without sleep for three to four days.