Bidding for fame is never easy. Despite this, everyone still dreams of a shot at it, sometimes, in unimaginable and even outrageous ways. It may not exactly reap specific, large-scale rewards, but fame, even in small dose, is still something to lose sleep about.
And lose sleep he did, when Randy Gardner decided on his experiment for the science fair. The 17-year-old decided he wanted the top spot in his science fair, and decided to go for a stimulant-free, sleepless study. He also convinced two friends from Point Loma High School, Bruce McAllister and Joe Marciano, and later on, Dr. William Dement, a sleep researcher.
The 11-day sleepless experiment done to understand how long people can go without sleep was a success.
Gardner stayed up for 264.4 hours: about 11 days and 25 minutes and became a national sensation. While his sense of smell heightened, Gardner was unable to repeat tongue-twisters and identify objects by touch.
On the fifth day, Gardner is hallucinating, and on the eleventh day, short-term memory loss was observed.
The result was not all negative, because his physical prowess seemed to have improved. On the tenth day, he actually beat Dement at pinball.
On his final day, Gardner told everyone, “I wanted to prove that bad things didn’t happen if you went without sleep. I thought, ‘I can break that record and I don’t think it would be a negative experience.”
Sixty years later after his sleepless experiment was immortalized on the Guinness Book of World Records, Gardner is still alive and able to express regrets for his teenage bid at fame. A report from Curiosity.com says that while Gardner did not show any negative effect on him right after the experiment ended, he suffered from recurring insomnia years later, before finally settling into a habit that allows him at most, six hours of sleep at night, effectively ending any potentially fatal bid for World Records on longest sleepless period.