What is the world record for staying awake?

The London Times reports that Tony Wright of Cornwall recently stayed awake for 266 hours. He was attempting to break the world record of 264 hours awake set by Randy Gardner of San Diego in 1964. Wright was also attempting to demonstrate that, thanks to his "caveman diet" of raw food, he was able to "train his mind in such a way as to stay awake for 11 days and remain coherent and aware of what was going on around him."

The Times then goes on to report the bad news. Gardner didn't actually hold the world record for staying awake. Gardner's record had long since been surpassed by others. So Wright didn't set a new record.

The Times reports that: "The Guinness previous record was for 11½ days, or 276 hours, and was set by Toimi Soini in Hamina, Finland, between February 5 to 15, 1964." However, Soini's record was removed from the Guinness Book of Records in 1989. "It was deleted on the grounds that it could encourage records harmful to health and was unverifiable because of the claims of insomnia sufferers."

Actually, the question of who holds the world record for staying awake is a little more complicated than that, which I know because Gardner's sleep deprivation experiment is one of the experiments I discuss in Elephants On Acid: and Other Bizarre Experiments. I even interviewed Randy Gardner, who still lives in San Diego.

Gardner set his record on January 8, 1964. Two weeks later newspapers reported that Jim Thomas, a student at Fresno State College, beat Gardner's record by staying awake for 266.5 hours. And a month later Soini set the new record. 1964 was a banner year for sleep-deprivation trials.

However, subsequent issues of the Guinness Book of Records report far longer periods of sleep deprivation. The 1978 edition, for instance, states that:
The longest recorded period for which a person has voluntarily gone without sleep is 449 hr (14 days 13 hours) by Mrs. Maureen Weston of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire in a rocking chair marathon on 14 Apr.-2 May 1977. Though she tended to hallucinate toward the end of this surely ill-advised test, she surprisingly suffered no lasting ill effects.
Ironically, I don't believe Randy Gardner's record ever did make it into Guinness. Gardner reports that "I did not get listed in Guiness as I missed the publication date." However, Gardner's record is the most frequently cited because it was (and probably still is) the most scientifically rigorous long-term human sleep-deprivation study, since Gardner was monitored by Dr. William Dement of Stanford University.

The overall problem with determining the record for the longest a person has stayed awake is that people take "microsleeps" without being aware of it. To really determine if a person has been constantly awake you'd need to record their brainwaves throughout the experiment. As far as I know, such a study has never been done.

Body Manipulation Science

Posted on Sat May 26, 2007


I'm an ex navy seal, we have been trained to stay awake for approx. 5-6 days. After that we are required sleep be it if we are in the middle of an operation it is law that we need sleep after 5-6 days if needed too we will give it the extra 4-5 hours.. depending on what we are doing at the time. My record is 5 days in Korea, and trust me without the supplements we are given i don't recommend anyone to stay awake for this amount of time, you're fine up to about 3 days then it hits you really hard.
Posted by Ricky  in  Aamerica  on  Tue Oct 19, 2010  at  04:11 AM
I, Gunar Lowder, currently hold the world record as of last week; I stayed awake for a consecutive time of 349 hours without sleep. I did this as a simple 'experiment' in psychology to beat my teacher's record of 11 1/2 days without sleep. and I succeeded successfully.

I'm only 16, I suffer from ADHD+Insomnia.

Shoop da whoop my comrades.
Posted by Gunar Lowder  in  Savannah, GA  on  Wed Oct 27, 2010  at  09:50 PM
16 Days you guys are all stupid if you havent gone at least 14 days there is no reason for you to feel any different than the next guys.
Posted by George  in  Iowa  on  Tue Nov 09, 2010  at  09:09 PM
this is the longest ive ever been up. its been 4.5 days and will be 5 days by the end of the night. im debating on shooting for two more days making it a week but my tips are to find something that interests you a lot and keeps you occupied. as soon as you start thinking about being tired you got yourself beat. being occupied is definitely necessary. i find that weed and alcohol help keep me up to even when its been a few days. its pretty strange. Ive heard that if you take 3-5 mg or g of melatonin i dont remember which but if you take it and stay up then it can trip you out light weight with hallucinations so ive definitely got to get some of this stuff. an all natural psychedelic basically free trip
Posted by Troy Reneek  in  Ohio University  on  Wed Nov 10, 2010  at  02:42 AM
I have gone a month and a half with an 2 hours a day, some studies show that if you sleep in intervals and not all at once this can be better for you. i.e. Sleep mode on the computer, rather than turning it off once and a while(or screen saver) I have also stayed up for 58 hours and 26 mins........you know what happened at 58 hours and 27 mins.... lol i crashed HARD.
Posted by Brandon McBurney  in  detroit michigan  on  Wed Nov 17, 2010  at  04:51 AM
I think the longest I have stayed awake is 84 hours, but there's a good chance I might've fallen asleep once or twice sitting in my office chair for a few minutes. lol So I guess that doesn't technically count as staying awake without a wink. I stay up for 2-3 days at a time frequently.

I used to be a full-time college student with two jobs, one of which was a security guard working many overnight shifts. I think after 4 years of that, and just generally having issues sleeping my entire life, my body is just used to staying awake for such long periods. Right now I'm at about 73 hours awake and don't foresee a nap this afternoon...have to work a closing shift tonight, so I'm thinking I'll be awake more than my previous record of 84 hours.
Posted by Katrina  in  Richmond, VA  on  Thu Dec 09, 2010  at  08:25 AM
QUESTION: What is the hardest thing for everyone to deal with physically when you are awake for this long?

For me, it's my eyes. They get rather swollen and dry after 3 days up and I've tried tons of things to treat them, but in the end, that's why I end up finally going to sleep. My brain doesn't want to go to sleep, but in the end my body always wins out.I can't imagine being awake for much longer than 3-4 days, though...can't that sort of thing give a person a heart attack? That's my biggest fear because after awhile my anxiety starts to really get to me and I think my heart is going to explode. Only had a few panic attacks, but they are not fun.
Posted by Katrina  in  Richmond, VA  on  Thu Dec 09, 2010  at  08:27 AM
i stayed up for 4 days and i was triping i nearly died dont do it if your young
Posted by lewis  in  jones  on  Mon Dec 20, 2010  at  03:59 PM
tony wright is the coolest i am going to try to beat his world record of 266 maby to 270.
Posted by jessica  on  Sun Dec 26, 2010  at  10:08 PM
Hi me And my mate have stayed awake 4 177 hrs wish us luck
Posted by glue  in  england  on  Wed Dec 29, 2010  at  04:28 PM
I was awake for 3 days and most nights i don't go to bed til about 5 because i'm in a mindset of that time then wake up about 3 hours later and when i wake up i'm more tired than when i went to bed...I think if i went to beat the record i might be able to! I've had so little sleep the last 6 months i could go for days and be aware of everything!
Posted by Beckii  on  Sat Jan 01, 2011  at  10:40 PM
Hello and thank you for your article.
But to your last comment on micro sleeps I'd like to refer to Peter Trip who was obsereved by Dement in 1972 and I was wondering if you knew if he was under any more scientific methords?
Posted by Ash.  on  Wed Jan 26, 2011  at  07:40 AM
at this point i have been awake fooorrrr.....
39 hours. which is what led me to this article...
i am unsure if i have a type of insomnia or not which is why i am studying a wiki article about insomnia in the back ground... i'm not sure why i can stay up for extended periods of time without sleep, but it is probably not healthy and i should sleep as soon as possible. i was never able to do this before, and i don't know why i have a talent for it now.
i don't want to be awake and i want to go to sleep. the last time i slept was for 2 to 3 hours which was off and on through the time, for i had an appointment that i had to fulfill in the morning. before those two hours mentioned. i can easily speculate that i had stayed awake for over 20 hours before gaining the 2 hours. which puts me at 2 hours of sleep out of 60 hours. i'm about to watch Inception, and i just got finished watching Mary and Max
Posted by Anonymous404  in  anonymous  on  Tue Feb 01, 2011  at  04:05 AM
During my schools spring break, i want to try to stay up for at least a week straight. I usually stay up around 2-3 days normally so why not try a long period of time? Heck, ill enjoy it, watch every movie on tv till i do.

P.S. im 15 and love not sleeping.
Posted by Jacob E  in  Oregon  on  Thu Feb 17, 2011  at  11:47 PM
Me and my friend are going for 60 hours, from yesterday morning, roughly 9am to 9pm on Thursday, which will be the 25th. We're keeping notes and taking a video every 5 hours in case we start forgetting what's going on. We're at roughly 17 hours through at time of writing. Nearly 1/3... My tips to anyone would be to do it with someone else, drink tons of caffeine, play videogames and keep talking to each other! smile
Posted by C @ C  in  London  on  Tue Feb 22, 2011  at  07:03 PM
my personal record is 55hours the highest in my family and my friends family but i started getting slow nausious and feeling like im about to pass out
Posted by bilie bob  in  texas  on  Wed Feb 23, 2011  at  10:37 PM
I've had Chronic Insomnia for a Year and 1/2 now. I can promise you people this is not something to play around with and it is not fun. In no means would i suggest trying any of this. I don't know any personal record or such but I do know i was up from Sunday to Saturday cause I worked those days and never got to sleep until I was off the next sunday. I promise you, if you have a job or a life, this is not something you should want to or try to do. It cause's severe problems. Personally I was trying to get sleep the whole time, I had just ran out of meds and couldn't get any in those 6 days. I wouldn't suggest to drive or to work during these times either. Please look into the side effects of sleep depravation.
Posted by Chris Bledsoe  in  RAF Lakenheath, UK  on  Fri Mar 04, 2011  at  07:56 AM
Hiya smile I stayed awake for 52 hours, just to follow a live event on tv. It was for charity a.k.a Comic Relief. Two radio DJ's placed a bet, to set a new world record, to see how long they could host the longest radio show ever. They made it. I think it's going in the Guiness Book of World Records 2011. Look for Chris Moyles and David Vitty. That's their names wink
Posted by Sarah.L  in  England  on  Mon Mar 28, 2011  at  02:31 AM
I was at band camp once and the beds were so uncomfortable, no one could sleep. But I went seven days without sleeping and I was having crazy hallucinations and weird things were happening. I thought I was going crazy, but everyone in my cabin were too cuz of lack of sleep. So my record is 7 days, never going back.
Posted by Amanda  in  Tampa, Florida, USA  on  Sun Apr 24, 2011  at  08:00 PM
When I was a resident, it was common to be awake for at least 36 hours straight during "on call" shifts (every fourth night). The constant activity and mental processing (and stress!)kept you going. But when residents are "post call" (meaning just coming off call usually at 5-6pm on the 2nd day), the stress level decreases drastically and a massive wave of exhaustion comes over you. Many residents fall asleep in their cars because they cannot drive home. Most tell stories of going home and passing out in their clothes with the lights on...then waking up at around 7pm not knowing where they are or what's going on and thinking it's 7am the next day AND THEY'RE LATE FOR WORK!! You immediately start cursing and run around disoriented for a few minutes trying to think what to do next. Many call the hospital apologizing for being late only to be told it's still the night before. Others race back out to their cars to go to work and then "feel" that something's not right...usually that there are too many people walking around. The experience is very common. My record for being awake was 63 hours. I remember that the waves of exhaustion would come and go, but became more and more frequent to a point where it was difficult to stand up straight. I cannot imagine staying awake and active for 11+ days.
Posted by Dr. Mike  in  New York City  on  Sat May 21, 2011  at  04:47 AM
me and my brother were going to attempt 100 hour 4 days 4 hours im 14 so yeah it will be a challange however we both have 17 litres of coke to share at night soo yeah babe IM GOING FOR IT im going to start next week wish me luck
Posted by daniel dieni  in  australia  on  Wed Jul 27, 2011  at  11:52 PM
If I have the right environment around me I can probably beat this record
Posted by Anthony  in  Sunnyvale, TX  on  Thu Mar 29, 2012  at  05:01 AM
i can bet that so far i have gone 10 days without sleep so im going for the worled record i just have to last 32 houers and 28 more mins left and i will bet that.
Posted by i can bet that  on  Tue May 01, 2012  at  09:29 AM
I stayed up for 30 days my head is light weight I fell like passing out am going for 32 days all I have left is 24hrs and 30 min wish me luck
Posted by Jake  in  Bobe  on  Thu Jun 28, 2012  at  08:35 PM
I've stayed awake for 54 hours once, I was doing alright for a while with energy drinks helping me out, then I did the math on how long I have been awake and I felt instantly tired
Posted by atreestump  in  United States  on  Fri Jan 11, 2013  at  09:26 AM
2 years
.............I've been infected with a rare case of insomnia!?during my stay at a local hospital, I woke up feeling like the best I could......later that night.....
When everyone was getting ready for bed
I then found myself NONE drowsy :/
........... ...... At my usual internal clock around midnight....everyone gets heavy eyes, coffe, sugar and DayQuil effects from a none drowsy substance....
I wasn't ...
.............................2 years..........I'm awake

I just remember that night like the rest.....and the morning, as well as seeing my family trying to get up like I used to feeling helpless.....forgetting....un-willingly..sleepy?!

Anyways it's funny watching people now.....mornings are my favorite......
I couldn't lose my people... I'd be scared alone.

I would like to do a brain wave study, in a test form.
Maybe I'm some sort of cure or inhansment......who knows, who knows.

Ok we'll 3 years...unfortunately , I wouldn't take it back now.....and here I come
....maybe we'll meet in the future......at some other phacility.
............ I'm j, and I'm awake
Posted by J  in  V.a  on  Tue Mar 12, 2013  at  09:30 PM
I think i can beat that i stayed up 10 days no problem.
Posted by zachary  in  archer florida  on  Thu May 30, 2013  at  07:34 PM
7 days. Hell
Posted by Austin Sauer  in  United States  on  Thu Jun 06, 2013  at  12:30 PM
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