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


motokano: "I'm just setting a personnal goal thats all, and i live in a town with like 2,500 people in it, there's nothing to do here, the closest mall is a 4 hour drive, or an 8 and a half hour bike ride and thats Timmins Ontario and its now been 7 days and 6 hours since i slept. I only got 7 days and 7 hours to go."

And this is the best "personal goal" you can think of to pass the time? You couldn't, I don't know, read the entire works of Shakespeare (or anybody else, for that matter) or watch every episode of The Simpsons? Or find a nice hobby or support a charity or take up watercolor painting or bonsai gardening? This is the best way you can think of to spend more than 14 days of your life?

Every now and then, I remember why I am so glad I'm a grownup.
Posted by Kathleen  in  Indiana, USA  on  Wed Mar 19, 2008  at  03:25 PM
Yuppers, thats about right.
Posted by Motokano  in  Chapleau, Ontario, Canada, Earth  on  Fri Mar 21, 2008  at  05:01 PM
the reason everyone likes to not sleep is because basically, you get high. After awhile you start to hallucinate (very mild hallucinations but hallucinations) and you also can get psychosis. psychosis is a loss from reality which can also be caused from alchohol, cocaine, LSD, speed, crystal meth, marijuana, etc. Most people will feel happy, relaxed, and feel that everything is fine. This is where most people get addicted and want to get sleep deprived (S.D.) even more. S.D. is so popular because you can get high legally.

personally i like to stay up until the sun rises and sometimes go for 24 hours which isn't much. S.D. causes a spark in my imagination and creativity. I ama musician and i have written many songs as well as stories after not sleeping. Personally, whenever i stay up for a long time, i feel like i am numb and i feel little to no pain. I find it hard to concentrate.

The last thing is i don't feel hungry. I stayed up until 4:30 this morning (3-23-08) after waking up at 6 a.m. the previous day(3-22-08). I went to sleep and woke up about an hour ago (11 a.m. 3-23-08). I ate Jack in tha Box at 3 p.m. on 3-22-08 and i haven'y eaten anything since. Basically, i haven't eaten in 21 hours. I just don't feel hungry. I think it's from not sleeping. Others feel more hungry and start gaining weight. But i feel less hungry and i think i am losing weight.

I usually do it a lot on vacations (im on spring break right now) and weekends but not during the week cause i have school. I haven't seen very severe effects when im normal and not sleep deprived except i have dark circles under my eyes and i fall asleep in one ore two classes (my boring teachers). Other than that i feel fine.

Staying for 11 days is just insane. If you like to get high from sleep deprivation, 18-24 hours is pretty healthy. but more than 2 days could probably cause brain damage and heart disease. remember, moderation. I usually play xbox live when i'm staying up. If i watch tv or read a book i will for sure fall asleep. Well bye for now.

I HIGHLY ADVISE AGAINST ATTEMPTING TO STAY UP FOR MORE THAN 2 DAYS. For one, it is not necessary. For two, it is not healthy. For three, sleep is good.
Posted by Henry  in  Los Angeles  on  Sun Mar 23, 2008  at  02:14 PM
Oh and BTW


don't even start using them. I have never drank an energy drink and never will. Fight it man
Posted by Henry  in  Los Angeles  on  Sun Mar 23, 2008  at  02:29 PM
My personal record was 11 days, then I died. r.i.p me.
Posted by curtis  in  detroit  on  Thu Apr 10, 2008  at  01:49 PM
ok so i live in South Dakota and i have nothing to fuckin do so im gunna try this for as long as i can...... im on my 29 hour right now and i feel like shit..... i wanna skip this and get to the 36 hour really trippy part...

hope i see some pretty crazy shit!!
wish me luck
Posted by Colton Young  in  Rapid City, SD  on  Mon May 19, 2008  at  04:40 AM
good look Dakota man
It helps if you stimulate your mind. The best way to do that is video games. Avoid reading, watching TV, or doing something where you are just sitting there. Also try notto exercise as well because then you will be tired. Just do something like video games or playing music or very mild exercise. Try writing a story, or a poem or a song.
Posted by Henry  in  Los Angeles  on  Mon May 19, 2008  at  08:47 PM
the most i've stayed up is right now at like 25 and a half hours. I woke up at ninethirty yesterday and haven't slept since.
p.s. i am only a kid
Posted by Malakapachingo W.  in  nowhere town  on  Fri May 30, 2008  at  09:17 AM
I am on my record right now of over 26 hours! I havent slept at all since 7:58am Thursday May 29, 2008! I am trying of not sleeping for an other
day or 2. Im not really tired so i might be able to do it.
-Addy Parker

P.S. I am only a kid!
Posted by Addy Parker  in  Denver, CO  on  Fri May 30, 2008  at  09:28 AM
Ya! fight the man!
Posted by Henry  in  Los Angeles  on  Sat May 31, 2008  at  08:09 PM
ive been awake for 3 and a half days now I and freaked out tho i keep thinking a see this black blur run past me but other than that im fine just tired to hell idk how they made it 14 days
Posted by Corey  in  idk  on  Sun Jun 22, 2008  at  11:29 PM
i have stayed up now for a little over 29 hours
i just wanna see how long i'll last and not set any records =]

but yea it kinda feels like i've been drinking =]
its really trippy =]
Posted by pancho  in  California  on  Tue Jun 24, 2008  at  04:32 PM
wish me look =]
im only 16
hope i dont go crazy =/
Posted by pancho  in  California  on  Tue Jun 24, 2008  at  04:33 PM
"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."

Didn't anyone else notice that 449 hrs is not 14 days 13 hours? I wonder how this type of a mistake could've gone through to the book. By the way, the same record (449 hrs = 18 days 17 hours) can be found with the days and hours corrected from the Finnish version of Guinness Book of World Records 1988 edition. It also has a mentioning of a Finn who even broke this by a mile, but it is said that the record can't be verified.

It also mentions people suffering from a very rare type of insomnia, in which the subject never falls asleep. Making the record years and years. I wonder what life would be like without sleep. Scary.
Posted by low-high  on  Thu Jun 26, 2008  at  11:48 AM
sick This is how you will feel after you don't sleep I have'nt slept for 6 days before and then I started throw ing up so it was not good!!!!
Posted by Dalton  in  Boston  on  Sun Jul 06, 2008  at  11:36 AM
when school was out i stayed awake four (72)3 day's
then i was reading a book and i fell a sleep
Posted by Jessica Puff  in  N.y westchester  on  Mon Jul 07, 2008  at  01:59 PM
I've been awake for about 26 hours now and i still can't get to sleep - not for lack of trying! And considering i woke up at around 2.30am due to sleeping during the day before, i was planning to just go through the rest of the night and day and get to bed early. but NO, it's noe 4.30am (26 hours later) and i have to go to work in a couple of hours so im pretty much gonna be up for about 40something hours - i admitted defeat not too long ago and started researching sleep patterns to kill the time when i came across this forum. aanyway, i'm going beyond the point here, i've stayed awake for about 60 hours (3 days, 2 nights) before and quite often go nights without sleeping becasue daylight seems to come before i'm done with my night of watching tv or finishing work. reading the other posts i started to wonder about why people do this for "fun" instead of because they have something to do or genuinely can't sleep. and weirdly i think i do understand it...

it's quite empowering to know that you can stop your body functioning on "default" and have the will power to drastically control one of it's vital functioning mechanisms; sleep. that said... actually sleeping is way more fun! smile
Posted by thoughtful...  in  London, UK  on  Mon Jul 07, 2008  at  09:49 PM
Allister Brown is attempting to smash a Guinness World Record for drumming 100 hours non-stop between the 22 and 26 July...

30 year old Allister is aiming to drum for 100 hours non-stop between the 22 and 26 July. Allister previously held the record in 2003 when he drummed for 58 hours and 17 minutes, and in 2004 when he drummed for 78 hours. The current world record is 85 hours and 30 minutes and was achieved by Belgian Gery Jallo in 2007. To break the record Allister must play recognisable tunes and not repeat any song within 4 hours. For each hour he plays he is allowed a 5 minute break.

Posted by Green 17 Creative  in  Lisburn, Northern Ireland  on  Fri Jul 25, 2008  at  09:40 AM
I used to have trouble sleeping until I discovered that certain types of magnetic products could help me sleep. I didn't believe it at first, but after using them for 3 years and sleeping like a baby at night, I'm a believer. It feels good to have a good night's sleep again. I would not trade it for anything.
Posted by Anita  on  Sun Jul 27, 2008  at  08:52 PM
hello I am a sixteen year old who has gone over 27 hours without sleep and that was because me and my friends were hanging out till 4:37 when I woke up at 8:22 the day before but anyways I got the dumb idea thinking I could break some record but after reading everything above I find I am out of my league and I will only keep going for another 10 hours just to see what every one is talking about then will happily go to bed and advise everyone to just sleep and have some fun dreams instead of trying of beating a record that won't even be recognized so come on
Posted by oscar lopez  in  Denver Colorado  on  Fri Aug 01, 2008  at  11:34 AM
also if you do choose to do it atleast be safe don't drink too much caffine (if you choose to play video games do it in a well lit room sitting a good distance from the tv ) also chewing gum and plugging in a iPod to some speakers actually helps and really no stimulants
Posted by oscar lopez  in  Denver Colorado  on  Fri Aug 01, 2008  at  11:44 AM
ive stayed up or 3 days..im only 14..im gunna try to stay up for 16 days..wish me luck
Posted by brandon  on  Thu Aug 07, 2008  at  04:19 PM
You guys are not going to be able to break the record for sleeplessness, i could go 28 days no problem, its a part of my job, never thought of going for the record though! LOL
Posted by Motokano  in  Chapleau Ontario  on  Thu Aug 07, 2008  at  04:25 PM
well dont say that i couldnt break the record which i probably wont but im only 11 ok and ive stayed up later than any of my friends. my record is 35 straight hours. but remember im only 11. school starts soon so i probably cant break my record again unless i might be able to break it tonight which i doubt i will even though the girl that i had a sleep over with before to make my record is staying the night at my house. but i still doubt i can because on tuesday i went to six flags kentucky kingdom so please stop saying stuff like you cant break the record and stuff. if i am able to stay up as late as i could before ill let you know.
Posted by Addy  in  Tallahassee, Florida  on  Fri Aug 08, 2008  at  07:43 AM
I have been awake for 45 hours as of now. im feelin fine at the moment. this morning i had some reallly long adrenaline rush and i couldnt stop shaking so everyone thought i was coked out =/
Posted by Banks  in  Virginia  on  Fri Aug 15, 2008  at  09:51 PM
Hello MuseumofHoaxes message posters... smile

I have had insomnia since childhood.

I remember with painstaking detail every minute of the two full weeks I was awake in high school.

The first week was fun, watched TV and movies all night, chatted online with people around the world, etc...

The second week, I spent every single class crossing off on a piece of loose-leaf how many minutes were left in the class. I wasn't able to remember the content of the lecture immediately after it, but every minute on my paper was neatly checked off.

I spent the last weekend working (easy food service job) and sitting in my room starring at inanimate objects. I looked like a corpse.

I fell asleep late the night of the 15th day.

Sorry to the "real competitors" but anyone with insomnia knows two weeks, can be nothing. I know women in their 50's that go three weeks.

This micro sleep idea is nifty. Do they make a sustained, restful version I can try???

(Other than my good bed buddy Mary Jane?)


Posted by Gwenaveer  in  calgary, ab  on  Thu Sep 04, 2008  at  11:09 PM
I've stayed awake for 191 hours and i was sleepy
Posted by I have 4 Youtube accounts  in  Houston,Texas  on  Mon Dec 08, 2008  at  11:01 PM
i can beat those records easily if my mom will let me and id have to start after school today cuz i have 2 weeks off only
Posted by Brent  in  ??  on  Fri Dec 19, 2008  at  08:14 AM
That's Gotta be World Records of people NOT COUNTING being Awake because of Medical Reasons... cuz on August 19, 2003 @ Within 8-Minutes of 10pm, I was in a Car crash while I was (Stupidly) Street Racing my Best Friend on a pretty Windy Side-Street in Ashland, MA called Oak St. & I crashed into the woods at some speed above 120mph (the Massachusetts State Police Specialists couldn't tell exact speed because of something about the road surface...I Don't know, I was there, but I don't remember like that entire YEAR. But I was Rescue-Helicoptered to Mass General Hospital in Boston, MA & I was in a Coma from August 19, 2003 (the date of the Crash) until September 17th...& I'm TOLD by several people that were in the Hospital to Visit me that I stayed Awake for the next like 3 & 1/2-Weeks...& the way my Doctor Explained it to my mother is that "no that the he is out of the Coma, 'All of the Switches are on High' (so-to-speak), I see this all the time, it'll balance itself out sooner or later..." & when I was a little kid one of my dad's friends was a Former Nacy Seal (in the Vietnam War), & he said that he barely slept at all while he was in the country of Vietnam...& he was really weird, Everyone always called him "Night Tiger" cuz he like never slept...I Think his real name was Dave...
Posted by Mark Walsh  in  Ashland, Massachusetts, USA  on  Fri Jan 02, 2009  at  11:05 AM
Me and my friend *Jamal* were up at 3 in the morning and started talking on the computer about pulling an all-nighter. and right before our eyes we realized it was 7 am! we were shocked that we had been up for 24 hours straight. so we assumed we came close to the world record and were anxious to be the next entry in the world record book.

out of boredom we googled what the world record was, and it was heart crushing to discovering we hadnt come close yet.

although it was like taking a bullet, we will not give up. we are determined to stay up all night.

*names changed for private purposes*
Posted by sarah scout  in  california  on  Sat Jan 03, 2009  at  05:11 AM
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