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How bad do you think it would be to stay awake for 200 hours solid? For most of us, missing one night of sleep is bad enough and the thought of missing about 8 nights of sleep in a row is beyond horrifying. For one man, radio DJ Peter Tripp, it was a truly horrifying experience, and one he never got over. It all started in 1959 when Tripp concocted the idea to help promote his radio show.
Tripp wanted to stay awake for 200 hours to promote his radio show. The stunt would involve him sitting in a booth in Times Square broadcasting his regular show during its regular slot. While it was promoted as a charity drive for the March Of Dimes the radio station also realised that because of its scientific interest (and the need for stimulants to complete it), they should also contact the scientific community. A group of researchers took turns sitting with him, not only to study the effects of the sleep deprivation but also to ensure that he wasn’t in any physical danger and to stop him from going to sleep.
Tripp managed to complete the radio show itself with few incidents, which in itself is a fairly incredible task but it was noted that during the down times between the shows it was noted that he was suffering. After about 100 hours of being awake Tripp was struggling with basic math, other problem solving tasks and even simply reciting the alphabet. By 120 hours he was starting to hallucinate For example, when he had gone to a nearby hotel room to have a shower and change his clothing, he opened a drawers to get his clothes and saw flames shooting out of the open drawer. Even worse than the hallucinations, afterwards he thought that the fire had been set by the scientists as a set and then he didn’t believe them when they said they hadn’t.
At this point Tripp was starting to dream while he was awake. This is common during long periods of sleep deprivation, where the person will go into REM sleep cycles while they are awake. This is as dangerous as it sounds as the lines between reality and the dreams are very blurred. As the experiment slash promotion went on Tripp had to be kept awake using a cocktail of drugs and he became progressively unhinged. By the end he was convinced that he was not actually Peter Tripp at all and that everyone was lying to him, he was also experiencing severe hallucinations. Yet still he managed to do his radio show... perhaps radio DJs need to be a little crazy?
Afterward he slept for a solid 24 hours Tripp woke and was returned to his normal self, though in the months following he did lose his job and divorce his wife, though this have not been directly linked to the 200 hours awake.
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