As part of my psychology degree, psych students are expected to complete a number of hours acting as guinea pigs for fourth-year- and honours-student’s projects before they are allowed to start the fourth year of their degree. Specifically, fifteen hours, spread over the first three years. When I’d finished my second year, going into my third year of my degree, I’d done about three and a half hours of guinea pig volunteering. Nowhere near as many as I should have done. This fourth-year chick came in during a lecture and told us about a sleep deprivation study to compare people suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to healthy people who just haven’t had some sleep for a while. Basically she needed healthy people to go without sleep for 24 hours and do an alertness and cognition test at the end of it. It was worth eight hours of guinea pig time. I signed up for it. I needed those extra hours.
Last Sunday I got a call from the girl doing the experiment and was asked if I could go without sleep the following night. She apologised for the short notice. I agreed to do it, since I hadn’t had anything planned for Monday and Tuesday, but if I had had a bit more notice, I would’ve spent a few days increasing the caffeine content in my blood stream so I could actually last the night. I’d done 36 hours of wakefulness before as a maximum, but this was with the help of a carton of coke and much coffee. For this experiment, I wasn’t allowed to have any forms of caffeine, drink any alcohol, or even have chocolate.
The period went from 9.30 Monday morning to 9.30 Tuesday morning. I was to log in via sms from 11.30 Monday night onwards until the test at 9.30AM the next day so that they could tell that I was awake. In hindsight, I suppose there was nothing to stop me from sleeping until 11.30 that night. Spent most of the night online. Tried to keep my brain busy by composing a new song. Chatted to Kirsty for a bit. Got to about 4.30 am, the last few hours of darkness, and the night started to get really quite rough. If I’d been allowed a mug of coffee I would’ve been fine. Uni life does that to you. I swear at no other point in my life I’ve been addicted to caffeine; to any chemical substance, actually.
Managed to make it to the test that morning. The experimenter came round to my place, for safety reasons: the ethics committee can’t allow people to drive around once they’d gone without sleep for so long. The hour-long alertness test consisted of measuring my reaction time, my memory and my cognitive ability. Scored pretty poorly in all of them. When they had left, I went and made up for the lost sleep by sleeping until eight o’clock that night, going back to sleep around midnight and waking up at 11.30 this morning.
I can pretty confidently say that while eight hours of guinea pig time is all well and good, I’m most likely not going to do anything of that sort again.
Replies: 2 comments
Hey Dan remember me? I am the Irish guy that lived in the house with Edo. I am very impressed with “Vaan”.
Posted by David Stafford @ 01/16/2004 03:11 AM AST
Vaan is a fun song. You should post more of these.
Posted by Chief Barley @ 01/14/2004 11:09 PM AST