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


Yeah so it was 3am when i decided to i.m. my friend *sarah*, we started talking and then made a pact to pull an all nighter...we began our amazing conversation about oreos, acoustic guitars, parental control, killer chairs and a lot more. Now the next thing i know its 8 am and we're determined to break the world record for staying awake! Not only do we plan on breaking a world record but we're going to drop out of highschool and make a band, then write about our travels and market them into a childrens book! wish us luck -jamal<3
Posted by jamal  in  california  on  Sat Jan 03, 2009  at  06:02 AM
I couldn't even make it to 36 hours... I was just so tired. So this is insaneee
Posted by Connor  in  Pennsylvania  on  Tue Jan 06, 2009  at  02:16 AM
i couldnt stay up for 36 hours either but i did make it to 35 beacuse see i woke up 8:oo in the morning and my friend and i went to see a movie then we drank a whole lot of pop and got really hyper, so then we got on the computer for like 6 hours straight and then made like a 2 hour long video we were just going for past our reacord for staying up mine was 7:15 and hers was 6:30 so we were just trying to beat those well we did so we tried for the 24 hour mark and i woke up at 8 and so i had to stay awake until 8 and she woke up at 9 so she had to stay awake til 9 well we ended up staying up until 7:00 that evening so i made it to 35 straight hours w/ no sleep and she made it to 34 hours!!!
Posted by Addy  in  Denver, Colorado  on  Tue Jan 06, 2009  at  02:36 PM
i dont see why people are goating about how long they have stayed up w/o sleeping... 90% of it is probably bullshit anyways so why even say it.... oh and i can believe the 11 and a half days of that dude staying awake. They meditate and shit, it can make them do crazy shit o.O (i uno how it just does?)

watch this vid raspberry hilarious
Posted by kyle turner  in  australia , adelaide  on  Fri Jan 09, 2009  at  02:07 PM
hi i have serious sleep problems and on a trip to quebec i stayed awake the whole week, the day before and a day after without trying to stay awake and i never got tired if that sounds kinda strange and i never was outof sync or not hearing people or unable to talk although the not hearing would be sick for a physics lecture :p
Posted by someguy  in  canada  on  Wed Jan 21, 2009  at  09:38 PM
I used to literally never sleep when I was younger.
Now I can sleep thanks to meds and marijuana.
Only downside for me was hallucinations, like a ufo and a flying sheep...well not flying but hovering.
Anyway does guiness have any regulations regarding the use of stimulants to achieve the goal? Hell I partied on amphetamines & alcohol for 11 days straight and anyone who's partied like we used to will know that the next 3 days were hellish. Mdma, speed and alcohol comedown, there's only 1 cure. 5-htp or prozac(they're not the same, 5-htp is like a serotonin supplement) and more substances. But I wouldn't recommend sleep deprivation nor drugs. But hey, as bill hicks once said, "I took drugs, and I had a great time!" Well bill, so did I =)
Posted by darksider  in  scotland  on  Mon Feb 02, 2009  at  01:01 PM
Hello people, staying awake is not good for you. Look it up, when you finally go to sleep and wake up again you won't remember whou you are!
Posted by madi  in  pullman, W.A  on  Tue Feb 03, 2009  at  05:42 PM
I can stay up for a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time
Posted by sirlaurence  in  richfield  on  Sat Feb 07, 2009  at  08:29 PM
I'm an insomniac. I've done over 72 hours straight as a personal record. Currently, I just realized I've been awake for 60 straight right now.
Posted by zdub  on  Mon Feb 23, 2009  at  09:17 PM
Sleep deprivation isn't good for you, but it's negative effects are usually STRONGLY exaggerated.

I haven't made it past the 2 day mark myself, but then again, I haven't tried to.
Posted by Grottesca  on  Mon Mar 09, 2009  at  02:23 AM
I have been going for 57 hours now.
I worked out at the gym for an hour of that in the afternoon
I have now walked and run around my block (about 600m) 4 times
I have now consumed 8 Pepsi max cans
And I have completed 4 assessments for school
I have also spent a total time of 14 hours on blog sites and chats, such as MSN Myspace Twitter Facebook
If this post contains any errors, it is because i am tired
Posted by haydster7  on  Wed Apr 01, 2009  at  09:16 AM
going on 5 days now...not by choice..my eyes are blurry and i cant think rite..my hands shake too

typing this was hard
Posted by ORLANDO GARCIA  in  Dallas, TX  on  Thu Apr 02, 2009  at  12:07 PM
The longest i've stayed awake is 3 days at Glastonbury festival (I had help;)) Slept all the way through the last day of the festival.
Posted by Bigsize  in  Newcastle UK  on  Wed Apr 22, 2009  at  07:37 PM
hmmm The capacity of humam beings be asleep don't surprises me. It seems to be evolved from the time that be awaken meant to not be eaten hehe.
Aplogizes for the bad English
Posted by LUIS  in  Brazil  on  Sat Apr 25, 2009  at  06:38 PM
Whoever said sleep deprivation is bad for you: no shit sherlock.
To the person above me, I couldn't understand what you meant in your post. Sorry buddy, no offense meant.

Seriously though, obviously sleep is needed, otherwise we wouldn't be programmed towards it.
My religious education teacher tried to tell us, among other bullshit, that we would die without sleep. I don't doubt we would go insane or have our bodies slow down, but not die.
Correct me if I'm wrong though folks, but make sure and give evidence.
Oh, and to the person who said people exaggerate the effects: of course they do, human beings exaggerate everything. But I mean look at drugs, people often emphasize the effects of drugs through mental ability. Its called placebo effect =)
Posted by darksider  in  scotland  on  Sun Apr 26, 2009  at  04:30 PM
shock i`m going to beat this!!!!!
Posted by dalton  on  Fri May 01, 2009  at  07:10 PM
I am on hour 54 right now of no sleep! Its exam week at App State and I just pulled two all nighters in a row. This morning I was in the library and saw chairs moving. The pattern on the desks looked like it was moving around and I totally forgot I had ridden my motorcycle up there! The streak will end tonight because I am done with finals until Monday but it was definitely an experience! I would recommend it. This morning I was studying and listening to music and it felt like I was outside my body and the music was all around me it was a real crazy feeling!
Posted by App State  on  Sat May 02, 2009  at  02:20 PM
Your all gay
Posted by Bob Marley  in  The after life  on  Sun May 17, 2009  at  03:25 AM
mine is 44 hours.
Posted by Jolly  in  Philippines  on  Sun May 17, 2009  at  07:36 AM
It is very possible to stay walking about and doing things for 11 days, 14 days, maybe even longer. However, the longest I ever stayed awake was 4 days and nights straight and I am a severe insomniac...

Without my good doctor's prescriptions to get me to put me to sleep by force every night, I would be awake from between 24 - 30 hours before getting 'sleepy' enough to finally drop off. You do have a point though, Robert. After 3 days I think my brain had reached even its stupid limit. I was basically just walking around doing things (most of which I can't recall), and I don't think my brain was in a state of conciousness in the normal sense. I don't really think that anyone, after three (or at the very maximum five) days having gone without sleep can really be said to be awake.

And so, in my humble opinion, there is no record. Any so-called record of more than 5 days is void, because basic functions of the brain will be operating with priority and intellectual capabilities will be limited to such an extent one may as well be asleep.
Posted by James  in  England  on  Wed May 20, 2009  at  07:57 PM
OMG 11 days shock we stayed up 4 1 night and thought we did a good job but now we feel like losers long face oh oh
Posted by fred bob dick  in  new mexico  on  Sat May 30, 2009  at  06:37 AM
im currently on 36 hours, a common record for most people. ive been working today, and midday i couldn't concentrate and my mind was all over the place, i couldn't drive and i was feeling awful, but by 4pm i was fine, milking cows, as if i was running on adrenalin and i was getting through the latter part of the working day in record time. its approaching 10pm now, and approaching 37hours staying awake, i still feel fine like if i hade woken up this morning, but i will let myself knock myself out because i am driving tomorrow and i gotta be prepared for that!
Posted by adrie  in  brighton  on  Thu Jun 04, 2009  at  02:44 PM
I am just now about to start my attempt at the record. I will try for 500 hours. WIsh me luck.

-David L. Richardson, age 14
Posted by David Richardson  in  Arizona  on  Fri Jun 12, 2009  at  10:37 PM
I just want to say, Im want to do this record so bad....

Im 21 and I live alone and im very intersted in this record...

I have started testing myself to see how far I could go with out sleep.
The longest I've gotten is 6 days, and the only side affect I had what random words that made no sence comeing out of my mouth...LOL

Im trying again as we speek, This is my 2 day, and Im hopeing to get to day 9 or 10 with out dieing.....

I have friends checking up on me offten, to make sure I dont try to kill myself...

But I think this record is awsome and I want to break it...

Dont know how long it will be for me to attempt this record in front of the jugdes.

But I love to stay awake and I would love to break this record, Wish me luck!
Posted by Kiila Lowe  in  Hyde Park, New York!  on  Fri Jun 19, 2009  at  11:30 PM
I stayed a wake for 53 hours and i just got bored. so i slept i wasn't really halucinating...
I'm going to try for 14 days 14 houra sometime though smile
Posted by Aidan  in  Redmond  on  Tue Jun 30, 2009  at  08:00 PM
make sure you are ready to experience this.
sleep deprivation is like a drug,
you need to be physically and mentally ready to experience it or else it could cause you some major harm.
you could end up with serious mental difficulties.
i suffer from heavy anxiety and depression, both a symptom AND cause of my insomnia.
i never used to choose when i slept, it used to just be once or twice a week for sutainance and nothing more. now thanks to many pharmaceuticals i can sleep when i want.
i actually NEED sleep nowadays, even without the pills, although without my meds i find it very difficult.
this is nothing to take lightly.
alot of people dont see it as anything major but i assure you that sleep deprivation is no laughing matter.
that said, you COULD have alot of fun and attain a valuable experience.
just dont say i didnt warn you when you are locked up in a padded cell, chained to the ground getting fed mashed potatoes with crushed valium through it...though that doesnt sound COMPLETELY bad =P
Posted by darksider  in  scotland  on  Fri Jul 03, 2009  at  03:33 AM
Hmm..449 hours? i stayed up for 136 hours at a HALO3 Tournament in atlanta...if i had something to play that was new and exciting with online capabilities...and A LOT of mountain dew, i think i could break that record...then again..after 136 hours i look at the word alcohol and thought it said schoolyard...hmm...interesting record indeed :D
Posted by Waller  on  Sun Jul 12, 2009  at  05:04 PM
I would say a couple days no problem ask the Marine corps. When deployed to Iraq in 2003, I personally stayed awake and very alert for over 5 days. I will and can go over a week . Trainig permitted I should be good for 14 days.
Posted by Jerry Scoggins  in  Mccomb, Mississippi  on  Mon Jul 13, 2009  at  07:06 PM
Whomever posted the info regarding being deployed with the marine corps(was that correct?) --- thanks a bunch for your contribution!
14 days? Your trained to do a fortnight? Wow...
Okay so basically this proves that with correct state of mind, body & spirit, one can achieve a high level of efficiency withough sleep?
Very interesting...
I may try training for the world record =P
Going to get zopiclone 3.75mg tablets tomorrow as I haven't slept in 5 days now, and I'm beginning to have a tight, sore chest with a little bit of what can be classed as psychoses =/ (hallucinations at a very small degree, high blood pressure, heart palpitations[I have a faulty heart valve from other things that are...not good...to say the least] and the main one is lethargy and an apathetic view on everything, which isn't abnormal for me but is worse than usual, and usual for me is feeling like nothing is worthwhile, like a total feeling of unimportance and inferiority)
Anyways thanks for the input, please continue to comment as at least I am always reading the new posts =) (I am alerted by email)
Peace all

Billy Ross
A.k.a darksider/lonewaster/psychostoner/l0ser
Posted by darksider  in  scotland  on  Mon Jul 13, 2009  at  08:11 PM
The whole illusion that lack of sleep will create mental and physical incapabilites is false . I work 16 hours a day and have np problems. As I said before when in a focused state one can acheive more than a doctor can explain. While overseas not only was i awake 5 plus days but running in and out of buildings and driving the scout vehicle for the squadron. All motor skills were intact and normal. Keep yourself motivated and moving all will be accomplished.
Posted by Jerry Scoggins  in  Mccomb, Mississippi  on  Tue Jul 14, 2009  at  03:32 PM
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