Russian researchers kept 5 people awake for 30 days. The results were spine chilling


An experiment to find out the effects of sleep deprivation was carried out by Russian researchers in the late 1940’s. They kept 5 prisoners alive in a locked chamber with a gas based stimulant. As they noted the effects of sleep deprivation on the prisoners at each stage, the results horrified them. Apparently it was found that sleep deprivation is said to cause psychological manifestations in people, rendering them abnormal. So, it becomes important to get enough sleep on a daily basis. Let us study the Russian sleep experiment.

1 The Basic idea behind the experiment

A group of Russian researchers attempted to find out the effects of sleep deprivation on humans. They used a gas stimulant to keep the prisoners awake the entire time, in the locked chamber. They were carefully monitored with closed circuit cameras and microphones. The chamber was stocked with books, cots to sleep without bedding, running water and toilet and enough dried food to last for a month.

Effects of sleep deprivation

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2 The Observations During The experiment

Everything was fine for the first five days; the subjects did not complain much, as they had been promised (falsely) that they would be freed if they subjected themselves to the test and did not sleep for 30 days. Their conversations centred on traumatic incidents and their tone became graver after the four day mark.

Observations During The experiment

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On the 6th day, they began to complain about the circumstances and events that led them to where they were and showed symptoms of severe paranoia. They stopped talking to each other and took turns to whisper into the microphones. They began to imagine that they would be freed, if they turned over their comrades to the researchers.

6th day of experiment

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Nine days later, the first prisoner started to scream. He ran the entire length of the chamber, yelling at the top of his lungs for three hours continuously. The other prisoners did not react to all this screaming. The screaming captives began to tear the books apart, smeared all the pages with their own faeces.

After three more days, when the researchers found that the microphones were not being used by the prisoners, they wanted to confirm whether the captives were alive.

On the 14th day, they announced in the intercom, that they were coming inside to check the microphones. The prisoners were asked to step away from the door and lie flat on the ground, else they would be shot. The message that one of them would be freed if they complied was sent. The captives said very calmly that they no longer wished to be freed.

on the 14th day

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It was found that four of the five subjects were still alive, although they did not look it. The food had not been consumed from day five. Instead the captives had been eating flesh from their own and each other’s bodies. Some organs from their bodies had been badly mutilated beyond repair. They screamed and wanted the gas to be turned on in the chamber lest they fall asleep. There was just one thing on their minds, they wanted to stay awake!!

In the fisticuff that followed in the room when the doctors tried to operate upon them, two captives were killed.

3 The prisoner strapped

The only remaining subject wanted to be put back into the sealed room with the gas in it. The commander ordered both people i.e. the researcher and the captive to be sealed in the cabin with the gas. At this the researcher, pointed his gun at the prisoner and asked him, “WHAT ARE YOU?” “I MUST KNOW!”

 prisoner strapped

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The prisoner strapped to the table replied, “Have you forgotten so easily?” “We are the madness that lurks within you all, begging to be freed at every moment in your deepest dark mind (prisoner of fate). We are what you hide from, tucked in your beds each night (nightmare). We are people who cannot embrace sleep for obvious reasons. We are another you.

The researcher paused and aimed at the prisoner, who weakly choked as he was dying…. “So …..Nearly…”

researcher paused and aimed at the prisoner

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In this experiment, it has been proved that sleep deprivations do cause psychological manifestations in people. Staying up for long hours very often causes unrest within the body, which fights to restore equilibrium. But after a while it gets disturbed and there could be manifestations of schizophrenia, paranoia, mania and the like in the sleep deprived person. So now that you are aware as to how important your forty winks are for you, make every effort to stick to it. Sleep is very important for our health. If you don’t sleep for continued periods of time, beware you might have to sleep forever.

About the author / 

Kavita Panyam