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Medical Effects of sleep deprivation?

  1. Jul 29, 2011 #1
    As I was lying awake staring at the ceiling last night, I wondered what the effects of sleep deprivation were. Would you experience decreased coordination, memory loss, ect? A timeline would be useful, i.e. Day 1-lalalalala, like that. I have heard that the CIA once used sleep deprivation as a torture technique, but I have yet to have seen any proof. Finally, how long can a human survive without sleeping? I know that lack of sleep is lethal, but does anyone know why?

    Kudos to you if you can answer all of those questions. :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2011 #2


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    There are many effects of sleep deprivation. The longest anyone has gone is 11 days (that's the longest that has been confirmed). Lack of sleep causes all sorts of health problems so fatality is probably due to a complication such as impaired would healing caused by lack of sleep.

    I'm not sure about the CIA but under the Bush administration the approved enhanced interrogation techniques utilised sleep deprivation. The Bush administration denied that this counted as "torture" though many human rights activists and the current administration have argued that it is indeed that.

    EDIT: seems like the CIA has used it for interrogation the argument being that it is not torture under US law, whether or not it is cruel or unusual is apparently a matter for debate.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2011
  4. Aug 1, 2011 #3


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    Just for fun, I'll add my own personal experience from my own lack to sleep. It happens from time to time, for various natural reasons that I get too little sleep and I find it interesting to note the most common symptoms.

    I've noticed these things

    1) Severe lack of creativity, most things are done on routine. Solving problemsm when beeing deprived from sleep is not constructive.

    2) Severely reduced patience. (actually linked to above, problem solving requires patience to skim through several angles)

    3) Severly reduced attention. Selective attention wrt sound and vision. Inputs that are not of obvious importance are ignored by the brain.

  5. Aug 1, 2011 #4
    The duration of sleep deprivation is relevant. In the short term it leads to reduced activity in the anterior cingulate cortex. It interferes with procedural memory. Problems with declarative memory take longer to develop. It can sometimes induce hypomania, or alternatively, irritability. Performance on interference tasks (distinguishing between conflicting information inputs) declines.. Eventually, auditory hallucinations are common. Longer term deprivation has a myriad of consequences, including lowering of seizure threshold.
  6. Aug 6, 2011 #5


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    Sleep deprivation is a known and effective interrogation, brainwashing and negotiation technique. Psychological pressures like sensory arousal, stress and empathy are also introduced. The 'handler' continuously offers 'deals' and 'conditions' consistent with their objectives. The idea is to induce disorientation and suggestibility in the target brain.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2011
  7. Aug 6, 2011 #6


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