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What is the world record for staying awake?
Status: News
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.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Science
Posted by Alex on Sat May 26, 2007
Comments (208)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
The longest that I've stayed awake is 36 hours, and my brain ws doing funny things by that point! I don't think I'd be tempted to try anything like this.
Posted by Madmouse  in  Edinburgh  on  Sun May 27, 2007  at  08:26 AM
Your brain does funny things at any time, Madmouse. 😉

I've often been awake for longer than two days. It can work fine for a good long while. But after a point, you start losing your sharpness. Your mind slows down a bit, your movements get less precise, and so on. It can get to the point that yes, you are technically awake, but what's the point since all you can do is sort of fumble around in a daze?
Posted by Accipiter  on  Sun May 27, 2007  at  11:38 PM
my record is only 2 days but tonite im gunna try and stay up for at least over 11 days
Posted by jesse  on  Thu Jun 07, 2007  at  12:52 PM
The record me and a couple friends have is 52 hours. At this moment I have been awake for almost 24 hours. 8DDD

Posted by Satan  on  Mon Jul 09, 2007  at  12:39 PM
I have to personal records:
The first one is 60 hours in a row
The second one is to sleep 10 hours over a 100 hours period.
Posted by BB  on  Tue Aug 07, 2007  at  06:35 PM
Well the longest i stayed up is 79 hours i was like dead tired then i couldn't say things straight or hear people that was kinda cool though that happened when i was 16 lol well pretty cool i was just hooked on a game
Posted by Person  on  Thu Sep 20, 2007  at  01:20 PM
as of this moment i am in my eighth day of no sleep. four months ago, i was awake for seven days. i am not trying to do this. it is unhealthy. just can't sleep. pills don't do it either. is been about one hundred and eight two hours. this sucks. keli
Posted by keli  on  Mon Sep 24, 2007  at  07:58 AM
me and my friends are going to get together next summer and go for 500 HOURS if someone falls asleep we hit them so wish us luck
Posted by Dustin  on  Wed Oct 03, 2007  at  08:15 PM
My record is about 72 hours..

I could go for more lol.. but what's the point?
Posted by Kyle  on  Sun Oct 21, 2007  at  07:16 AM
266 hours? Wow. My longest was 48, and by that time I was ready to drop. Today is actually my second longest - almost 35 hours.
Posted by Me  on  Sun Oct 21, 2007  at  08:48 PM
Hmm I've stayed up well beyond 11 days.
Posted by Seth  on  Mon Nov 05, 2007  at  01:38 PM
I am right now at 36 hours awake. I feel little bit tired but im used to staying up 40+ hours, because of online gaming. I could prolly pull a 5 day streak if i wasnt working hard.
Posted by Everett  on  Sun Nov 11, 2007  at  10:20 PM
i don't think many people can go more than 4 days w/o sleep w/o getting some type of illness. I've stayed up for 3 consecutive days, but i was working those days and nights so it really wasn't that hard. But the one guy who said 8 days is just a bunch of crap. If he was 8 days he wouldn't be able to concentrate on typing his comment. 3 days of no sleeps cuts off 75% of your concentration. That's a fact. people saying 11 days is a bunch of crap, too.
Posted by Robert  on  Tue Dec 04, 2007  at  07:48 AM
The longest I been awake is about 40 hours...It was very intense and i really dont see anybody staying up for 8-11 days i just stay up at night and watch t.v. instead of going to bed and when the morning comes i either have school or work so im forced to stay up
Posted by Joey  on  Thu Dec 06, 2007  at  04:20 AM
I'm up from 2:30pm dec 5th and now it's 3:26am dec 8th, didn't try to break any record, just couldn't force myself to fall asleep 😊, i'll try to go to sleep now, wish me luck
Posted by Jonny  on  Fri Dec 07, 2007  at  07:29 PM
In july 2007, i went through a stage of insomnia, this was due to the fact that alot was on my mind or so the doctor said.

Anyway, for everyone who wants to know im 16 and live in manchester, UK. My friends told me that if i dont sleep then i am going to become unwell, and the most childish of them said that he thought the record was 11 1/2 days.

Anyway as the week went on and i didnt sleep, i became agitated and quick tempered, abit like an addict going cold turkey. Anyway, my personal record was 10 days and 6 hours, of which at that point i was forced into sleep by the paramedic

from what the doctor told me, the state of which my brain got into was extremely close to going at the same speed as someone in a state of coma. The symptoms that i encountered were:

High Blood Pressure (constantly nose bleeding)
Shivering constantly (after 5 days)
Stopped eating after 8 days
Black outs
Diluted Pupils
Inability to focus properly

Basically the list goes on, but all i will say is, after that amount of time, i have not encountered any problems of any kind, however, i have lost the respect of my family and currently living with my stepfather as i scared my family too much.

If there is any advice you would like in a case like this, then if you want to do it that is your choice, but i would recommend doing it until 5 days then leaving it unless you are medically incapable, then, i would ask for sedation

this sort of thing is NOT GOOD!
Posted by Chris  on  Thu Dec 13, 2007  at  05:11 PM
i have been awak now for like idk sine 10am on 1/1/08 and its now 6:42am on 1/2/08 im gonna try for 13 days stright!
Posted by RACHEL  on  Wed Jan 02, 2008  at  04:43 PM
sorry i mean 6:42 pm!!
Posted by RACHEL  on  Wed Jan 02, 2008  at  04:44 PM
I know I'm going to regret asking this, but WHY are you trying to stay awake for 13 days straight? If you're going to try to do something, why not make it something worthwhile or fun?

Posted by Kathleen  in  Indiana, USA  on  Thu Jan 03, 2008  at  09:23 AM
I'm on 6 days and 8 hours mins so far and that means I only got 8 days and 5 hors left to go untill i hold the record but I will not stop there! I'm going to go for at least 3 weeks straight. I do not plan on failing, I will do this no matter what. GO CHAPLEAU! if you want to see how its going, send an e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Posted by Motokano  on  Mon Jan 07, 2008  at  09:29 AM

WHY are you going to go "for at least three weeks straight" no matter what? And again, why not spend all that effort on something worthwhile or fun?

And again, jeez.
Posted by Kathleen  in  Indiana, USA  on  Mon Jan 07, 2008  at  11:15 AM
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
Posted by motokano  on  Tue Jan 08, 2008  at  12:08 PM
and the beginning to the e-mail is k_lub69
Posted by motokano  on  Tue Jan 08, 2008  at  12:10 PM
my record so far is 160 hours.
Posted by alex  on  Wed Feb 06, 2008  at  10:03 AM
Aww only at 20 or so hours atm, planning for 36 hours straight (gonna be a first 😛)
Posted by pie  on  Sat Feb 16, 2008  at  01:59 PM
lol you'll get there eventually
Posted by alex  on  Sat Feb 16, 2008  at  09:42 PM
i stayed up 4 243 hours. only 29 hr.s left wish me luck. sterling bullock n.c. henderson
Posted by sterling bullock  on  Sun Feb 24, 2008  at  04:21 PM
stayed up 4 260. wish me luck.
Posted by sterling bullock  on  Sun Feb 24, 2008  at  04:24 PM
My personal record was 140 hours that I did a few years ago.
Not the greatest time of my life, that's for sure.
Posted by Eric  on  Mon Mar 03, 2008  at  11:53 PM
I seriously think the best way to stay awake for long periods of time, are video games.. something to keep you focused on anything but sleep. Find a good MMORPG or even decide to play through every Final Fantasy game in order without sleep, then switch to a different franchise like Resident Evil or GTA... But I still don't think I could do 11 days... Iron men and women doing this stuff.... Kudos...
Posted by Elmin  on  Wed Mar 19, 2008  at  01:06 AM
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