I recently participated in a sleep deprivation study at a U.S. military research center. The study was conducted in a dorm-like setting, with separate rooms for each participant (there were four of us) connected to a common room that had a television and kitchen. Our private rooms were used for conducting numerous tests gauging memory, motor skills, et cetera and so forth. We cycled through these tests over and over again -- with only short breaks in between -- for the entire duration of the study. We were not allowed to use caffeine or any other substances, although we were provided with food whenever we wanted it.

After about 65-70 hours of no sleep I began to hallucinate.

Sleep deprivation is definitely torture. Anyone who says otherwise is an asshole. Anyway ... Ask Me Anything!

EDIT: trying to answer questions as quickly as possible! Thanks for your interest.

EDIT #2: This question is popping up a lot so I'll just answer it here: I was paid roughly $2,000 to participate.

EDIT #3: Thanks for the front page vote-up, guys! And now a Predator Drone will murder me for revealing U.S. Sleep Deprivation Secrets in 3, 2, 1.....

Comments: 1767 • Responses: 57  • Date: 

wabudo289 karma

I did a 72 hour shift at work once. I was working on construction at that time and the project was late. We needed to finalize a certain area in order to have the project over 50% ready by the weekend. The law for value added tax was coming to effect then and if the project was under 50% finished the contractor would have to pay VAT for the whole project.

Anyway. The first 48 hour were a breeze, no problems. Just a normal sense of having stayed awake for a long time. We worked for about 3 hours at a time and then took a 20 to 30 minute break, had coffee and some sandwiches. After that the lack of sleep really kicked in. I remember that despite being cold, wet from the pouring rain (we were working outdoors) and trying to work I fell asleep while standing. I woke up the instant I lost balance, but I remember the feeling of falling asleep and then waking up to feeling of falling. I was not nice. I do not remember any breaks or having eaten during the last 24 hrs. Once we finished the task we had a three hour drive home and I was the designated driver. The drive was incredibly dangerous. I remember at one point looking at a long straing part of the road and thinking "I could take a nap and then handle the turn at the end". Once I think that I fell asleep and almost drove off the road. I woke up to the change of sound coming from the tires. It was a huge shock and really sent some adrenaline coursing through my veins. I stayed awake for the rest of the trip thanks to that. Once I got home I took a long shower and slept for 21 hrs straight.

jeff303385 karma

That sounds like negligence/abuse on the part of whoever was employing you.

[deleted]114 karma


jeff303188 karma

Oh I don't doubt that for a second. But that doesn't really change what I said.

[deleted]32 karma


[deleted]45 karma

I was the designated driver

Wow the other guys were sleep-deprived AND drunk?

Tradons282 karma

What types of tests did they conduct(please be semi-specific)?

How did you go about staying awake so long? Did you do jumping jacks, watch tv?

Who stayed up the latest out of your group?

How awesome was it to finally go to sleep?

How long did you sleep for once you feel asleep?

[deleted]246 karma

We did a shit ton of mouse-clicking. As in, you see an 'X' on your computer screen, click the mouse. This became difficult when I began to hallucinate.

We also did speech tests (seeing how well we could enunciate) as well as memory tests (matching pictures/faces/objects to objects we saw previously).

I love sleep so I was surprised that I was actually able to stay awake for so long. Watching television/playing cards/basically anything that can distract you helps. But I also did a lot of pacing when things got really bad.

We all stayed up for 88 hours. It was very, very awesome going back to sleep, although they woke us up at 7am the next morning! When I finally got home to my bed I slept for about 12 hours or so.

ProbablyHittingOnYou129 karma

Did you notice big differences between your behavior and the other participants?

[deleted]212 karma

Not really. We all seemed to be getting progressively worse at everything.

d07c0m105 karma

Was anyone affected really badly? As in start to really lose it?

[deleted]176 karma

hmmm there were moments when people (myself included) became really quiet/would take a long time to respond to questions and movements.

yeahfuckyou61 karma

Anyone start talking to themselves? Mumbling a lot? Laugh inappropriately?

[deleted]128 karma

eh, not that I can recall. Our "conversations" with each other were probably pretty retarded though.

hitlersshit8 karma

What did they do to keep you awake? Were you being paid by how long you stayed awake for?

[deleted]9 karma

If we fell asleep/quit they would pay us minimum wage for the amount of time we stayed up.

ElliotofHull73 karma

So they stopped the test at 88 hours? How much longer do you think you could have gone?

[deleted]113 karma

if they paid me more I probably would have gone another day (maybe).

lolipopfailure65 karma

Other than providing the distractions you mentioned, did they do anything to actively keep you awake?

[deleted]94 karma

eating seemed to help. There wasn't a lot else we could do besides watch tv/walk in circles.

[deleted]72 karma


TuhMuffinMan30 karma

Do you remember if the name of the computerized test was called ANAM?

[deleted]32 karma

I think it was called ANAM! Yes! God what an awful program....

TuhMuffinMan44 karma

Hahaha that is too funny! I am one of the current developers of ANAM (more maintainers at this point, it was written long before I worked at my current job).

It is mainly used to test for potential traumatic brain injuries by comparing current data to some kind of baseline (or normative data).

It gathers an extensive amount of data and metrics in the background. I main work directly on the tools that are used to interpret the data produced by the tests you took. :)

My buddy at work today ran across this IAMA and said "Hey I wonder if this guy took ANAM?" haha so I thought I would ask... such a small world!

[deleted]26 karma

Ha, amazing! I dunno know if there is a more recent version of it, but the edition I used looked like it was made for MSDOS or something. Man that program drove me nuts. It would take about 20 minutes to get through a set of tests, and we must have done more than 70 sets by the end....

TuhMuffinMan23 karma

Ya that is how it looks, the reason being is that it cannot change much or it invalidates testing data that has already been done. They already aren't normally used in such rapid succession... The Army uses ANAM a lot. A quick example would be they would take 1 series before deployment, and maybe another if they got hit by a concussive blast of some kind. The results when then be compared.

Can you tell me what agency did the testing?

[deleted]11 karma

interesting. And yup, this was through the Army.

busted_up_chiffarobe255 karma

You didn't need to participate in a study to do this.

Just attend Architecture school. I stopped just short of 60 but was eating instant coffee with a spoon towards the end.

What did you see when you hallucinated? How were your reflexes and cognitive skills affected?

Did you see the test results? Were some people less prone to deterioration than others?

[deleted]276 karma

I haven't seen the test results, but I talked with the rest of the subjects in the study afterwords and we all seemed to agree that our cognitive skills were fucking awful by the end.

At a certain point you just become a sad vegetable. That's the best way I can describe it. Like, you'll see something, but your brain just won't care or even bother responding. One of the tests was pressing a button when a red light came on. Usually you can react within 100-250 milliseconds (I think I have that right?), no problem. After 70 hours of no sleep, it would take me 5-9 seconds.

[deleted]19 karma

Upvote for Architecture school. But to be honest, we do procrastinate A LOT.

subsetr185 karma

At what point did you begin to pull your own intestines out?

[deleted]75 karma

Awesome! I read that too! First thing I thought of when seeing the headline. So my question is, did you read the Russian sleep experiments on reddit a few weeks ago, where the participants essentially went insane? How did this correlate with your experience (as in, thoughts experienced during the process?)

[deleted]91 karma

hahah yes I did read that! Never felt the urge to rip open my own stomach. The mood swings were very severe, though. Hours of feeling total worthless would be followed by surprising volts of elation.

RattusRattus37 karma

Did you know there's a disease where, at certain age, the person can no longer sleep, and within a few months they die?

lexicate47 karma

Fatal familial Insomnia

That's some straight-up Lovecraftian shit right there. I would certainly fucking kill myself if so afflicted.

toastedtobacco169 karma

What were the hallucinations like? What did they feed you? How long did you sleep after?

[deleted]278 karma

Chairs/tables/random objects would wobble. A big part of the study involved staring at a computer screen, mouse-clicking when you saw something "appear" on the screen. This became difficult when I began to HALLUCINATE objects on the screen that weren't actually there. Animals. X Marks. All kinds of shit.

They fed us mostly microwavable meals but they also had lots of chips/snacks, some fruit as well, yogurt, bagels. There was an okay variety. I am a huge bachelor frog so I actually ate better during the study than I normally do at home.

They continued doing tests on us after the 88 hours of no sleep, so I only got to sleep 7 hours the first night. Same with the second night. They released us after two days/nights and when I got home I probably slept for 12 hours at least.

eudaimondaimon85 karma

I've had one sleep-deprivation episode which caused me to hallucinate. I was awake for ~50 hours and had been listening to Dan Deacon's album Bromst on repeat for a large portion of it. I was also writing a paper.

I got up to pee and when I was standing over the toilet I saw firefly-like glowing spots that kind of rotated around my visual field. It was as though the surface of my visual sphere was tessellated with some pattern, and the glowing spots marked the vertexes. They all remained equidistant and in-sync as they kind of did a quick spiral before disappearing. It only lasted 1-2 seconds, but it was extremely vivid. The strangest part was I "saw" the spots even where my eyes had no visual information, even behind my head (or in my head, possibly, as I had no concept of the objects' distance).

I have absolutely no idea whether what I experience is in any way typical for sleep deprivation.

[deleted]33 karma


blindingdawn135 karma

Would you do it again?

[deleted]257 karma

oh hell no.

Spleen_Muncher103 karma

For $4,000?

EDIT: OP, I'm actually really curious. I'd like to know.

UnreachablePaul76 karma

I could do that for $2000 if i only could see reddit and watch redtube

tejmin54 karma

No fapping or schlicking or erecting. Would you still do it?

[deleted]94 karma


ironyisnobleart114 karma

how did they keep you from falling asleep?

[deleted]214 karma

if you fell asleep the technician on duty (who was in the room with us at all times) would just "hey, Derp, wake up." If that didn't work they'd gently nudge you.

this_sort_of_thing216 karma

But who kept him awake? It's technicians all the way down, isn't it?

CanadianGun68 karma

I'm guessing it wasn't the same technician the entire time. Probably rotated shifts.

PartyOnAlec98 karma

The test was actually to see if the technician could stay awake for 88 hours.

90balloonsandpinata36 karma

The test was actually to see if they could monitor the technician for 88 hours.

[deleted]14 karma

were there technicians monitoring their monitoring of the technician?

[deleted]45 karma

Well, it is until you get to turtles.

[deleted]88 karma

So what about if you needed to go to the toilet, how would they stop you from accidentaly falling asleep there?

[deleted]184 karma

this actually happened to one of the subjects, I think. They just pounded on the door until he woke up.

greengoddess31 karma

A gentle nudge worked?

[deleted]173 karma

surprisingly, yes. I don't really know why. I should also mention that we had electrodes glued to our head, so if the technicians spotted any brain activity that might suggest we were drifting off/already asleep, they could react pretty quickly and wake us back up.

[deleted]560 karma

I thought/hoped that sentence ended with "shock us".

[deleted]29 karma

Seems like that would of worked better than 'a gentle nudge'. Put the electrodes across his bollocks. Sleep now, motherfucker, and watch what happens.

zenarche32 karma

I'm very curious about this as well. Did they have to use more and more aggressive methods to keep you awake? How quickly was your body trying to make you fall asleep as you approached the end?

[deleted]97 karma

oddly enough, I was not begging for sleep by the 88 hour mark -- I was very happy to go to bed, but I probably could have gone a few more hours. I was tired, sure, but I was feeling a lot shittier at around the 32 hour mark.

zenarche105 karma

I know that if I stay up a few hours too long, or don't sleep well, I can become a little cranky. But if I stay up almost all night, I eventually hit a point of almost calm or mild exhilaration. But I've never stayed up as long as you have.

Could you talk a bit about how your moods were affected during the study? Do people tend to react the same way to sleep deprivation, or can moods vary widely between people?

Thanks, this will be an interesting AMA. :)

[deleted]129 karma

I had huge mood swings during the study. Like you mentioned, after a certain point your body just sort of "adjusts" and you actually feel pretty good. But when you go 88 straight hours, these fluctuations become much more extreme.

Things got really bad around the 32 hour mark. The power in the building went out due to a storm so we had no lights, no television, no microwave to heat up food. It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life. I was pacing back and forth for hours. (The power went out at 9pm. Came back on around 7am the next day.)

At the same time, there were moments when I felt fine. Almost a dreamy high.

Not sure how other people react to these sorts of situations.

nortern167 karma

Do you think it's possible they removed power on purpose as part of the study?

edit: spelling

Gycklarn95 karma

My first thought, actually. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they cut the power on purpose and lied to the participants to monitor their reactions.

Umbrella-san30 karma

If they did that, they'd most likely explain to the participants after the experiment. They have codes of ethics for stuff like this, I guess. But then, the US Military would have all sorts of power to do what they like... who knows?

[deleted]13 karma


jared55542 karma

Were there backup generators for the test equipment? Are you sure the power outage wasn't intentional?

[deleted]81 karma

We did have backup generators, but they only lasted for a few hours. There was 1 light that managed to stay on, so it wasn't a complete blackout in the room, but it was still very, very dark and all the other outlets did not work. There was a legit snow storm that night so I'd be really surprised if it was intentional.

ModestConArtist92 karma

I've heard that staying awake for that long can have long term effects on your mind/personality. Would you say you're a different person or that it has changed you in any way?

[deleted]120 karma

yeah, my sister said I'd be brain damaged after this. I don't really notice any difference though. However, now I really appreciate the sleep I get, even if it's only a few hours. Makes a world of difference.

ModestConArtist73 karma

Has your sister (or anyone else) described you as changed since it happened? Or do they feel you're the same person.

[deleted]91 karma

That's a good question. I honestly don't know. None of my friends have said anything, so hopefully this isn't the case. But who knows?

GreatTragedy62 karma

What did you get paid?

[deleted]20 karma

In another question thread, OP said that:

"I was paid about $2,000. (The study also involved one week of coming in to the facility and spending the night, to observe sleep patterns et cetera.) So it was basically a two week ordeal"

RebelMan58 karma

What did you do besides watch TV?

[deleted]99 karma

played cards. read. someone brought an xbox. talked gibberish. did a lot of pacing.

[deleted]88 karma

I can't imagine that reading would even be an option for staying awake by halfway through day 2.

annieface38 karma

When I know I need to go to bed, I read just to make myself fall asleep. I get much too relaxed when I read.

SSR was always a bitch in elementary/middle school.

[deleted]14 karma

oh my god... FUCK SSR!!!

you just brought back memories i had long forgotten.

[deleted]51 karma

What ad did you answer to participate?

[deleted]55 karma

there's a U.S. clinical trials website that lists these sorts of things.

[deleted]21 karma

Is there a link to it? I would like to know. XD

[deleted]46 karma


[deleted]41 karma

...because that would be way too long.

Galhandor38 karma


PandaVidya34 karma

Why? Just why?

[deleted]253 karma

I needed money. And not in the "I really want to buy that new shiny 70 gigabyte Macintosh iDildo" kind of way. Needed to pay my rent. And feed myself.

atticus18244fsas23 karma

How much were you paid?

[deleted]23 karma

Coming from someone who does research studies, he probably made around $2500. Depends on the hospital and the amount of funding available.

Chartzilla33 karma

What exactly did they ask you to do? Stay awake as long as possible?

Any advice for someone who might be trying to do the same?

[deleted]59 karma

It was not a competition. Everyone stayed up for the exact same amount of time (88 hours).

You need to keep yourself distracted/busy at all times. When you don't have something to do/watch (the power in the building was knocked out due to a winter storm around the 32 hour mark) you will go crazy. Trying to stay up in the dark is 1,000 more difficult.

dreish13 karma

How long was the power out?

[deleted]18 karma

9pm-7am the next morning. It was a-w-f-u-l. No lights. No tv. I was very unhappy.

Jenjena21 karma

Are you sure it was legitimately out, or were they fucking with you?

[deleted]28 karma

I believe any lies you are told in the course of an experiment they are required to reveal to you at the end. It's an ethics requirement. So if they were fucking with him, he'd have known it :)

diggizsofuckinggay30 karma

Were you allowed to beat your meat?

[deleted]15 karma

haha. Probably in the bathroom, but I never did. I had zero sex drive. Absolutely none.

Petraptor19 karma

How was that anal temperature probe you had to wear?

[deleted]31 karma

hahah. we did have electrodes glued to our head. It was super uncomfortable.

cipote21419 karma

Could you talk to anyone? Was the food good?

[deleted]35 karma

could talk to the other people in the study and the technicians. they confiscated our cellphones for the entire study.

[deleted]15 karma

I've heard that those kinds of hallucinations are pretty terrifying, you feel like your dying aswell. How did your experience compare to your "housemates"?

[deleted]39 karma

The mood swings are incredible. The first 24 hours weren't so bad. After 32-36 hours though things got really, really shitty. Unbearable anxiety/general moodiness. Then I'd feel relatively alright for a few hours. And then I'd relapse. It was an emotional roller coaster, for sure. "Housemates" had very similar experiences.

bronky10 karma

Were yall allowed to know how much time had elapsed, or know what time of day it was?

[deleted]10 karma

yup. there were clocks on the walls.

WetHotAmerican9 karma

The way you describe it it sounds like you were pretty isolated. Did you have any access to the outside at all during the study? What about a window? I can't imagine staying up for 88 hours straight but to have to do it in a small confined area would make it much much worse I imagine.

[deleted]12 karma

we were not allowed to go outside. And there were no windows.