It’s recommended by many sleep experts that you should get seven to nine hours per night for a healthy adult. With a good and refreshing night’s sleep, you can recover and rest your muscles, refresh your brain, and keep your immune system up and running. However, this didn’t stop Russian scientists back in 1940 from discovering a gas mixture that they thought would diminish a person’s need for sleep. In order to test their theory, researchers gathered some enemies of the Russian State and locked them in a chamber for 30 days while pumping this gas into the chamber to see what would happen. Well, the results ended up being more than they ever thought possible.
The Experiment BeginsDuring the late 1940s, five men within the Russian State chose enemies to take part in an experiment involving sleep deprivation. The goal of this experiment was to use small doses of an experimental gas stimulant that will supposedly eliminate the need for sleep. The subjects were to be kept in a sealed environment so that the researchers wouldn’t have to smell the gas. The only thing in the prisoners cells were a microphone to communicate with the researchers, books, a toilet, running water, enough food to last them a month, and a cot with no bedding.
The First Three DaysThe first three days of the experiment seemed to go well. The researchers told the prisoners (falsely) that if they cooperated and didn’t sleep for 30 days, they would be granted freedom. In order to pass the time, the prisoners opened up to each other and talked about their past traumas. After the fourth day, the stories and conversations became increasingly dark..
The Fifth Day
By the fifth day of the experiment, the prisoners became paranoid and they complained about the past circumstances and reflected on the decisions that brought them to this point. However, instead of continuing the conversations with each other, they began to whisper their stories into their microphones. It seems like they believed that they could win the trust of the researchers by revealing the crimes of their prison mates.
It was by the ninth day that the screaming within the prison started. For three hours straight, a prisoner began running back and forth across the length of the room yelling. When his voice became weak, he could only make out tiny squeaks due to the tearing of his vocal cords. The other prisoners seemed like they hadn’t heard the screaming at all, and they did not react to any of it.
The chamber became incredibly quiet on the fourteenth day, and the researchers decided do do something they hadn’t planned to do. They used the intercom to try to get some sort of a response from the prisoners, hoping to get any kind of response from the captives. They worried that the prisoners were either dead, or had become complete vegetables.
Opening the DoorsThe researchers explained to the prisoners that it was necessary for them to open the chamber door. They said that if the prisoners didn’t try to run, only one of them would earn his freedom. A calm voice responded through the intercom saying, “we no longer wish to be freed.”
On the fifteenth day of the experiment, the researchers removed the gas-stimulant from the chamber and they replaced it with fresh air instead. In response to this change, the prisoners begged with the researchers to turn the original gas back on. Soldiers arrived to get the prisoners, but they discovered that only four of the five original subjects were still breathing. They noticed that the food hadn’t been touched in five days, and that there were pieces of flesh missing from the dead man’s thighs and chest and were found clogging the drain and flooding the room with four inches of water.
Self-Inflicted WoundsIt was discovered that the subjects who were still alive were missing skin and flesh, and these wounds appeared to be self-inflected ones. The soldiers were terrified of bringing their bodies outside of the chamber. The prisoners continued to yell to the soldiers that they wanted to be left in the chamber. They also begged for the gas to be turned back on unless they wanted them to fall asleep.
When the soldiers tried to give the prisoners medical attention, intense violence started up. Medical professionals had to strap one prisoner to a table and give him morphine to no avail. The prisoner’s heart stopped beating, but he shouted “more!” and was flailing around until he passed.
Researchers then put another prisoner-the man whose vocal chords had burst- on a medical table. The doctors tried to put him under anesthesia to repair his cracked bones and failing organs, but the man refused to let him help. He wanted to have the surgery performed while he was wide awake.
The other prisoners received the similar operations, also while awake. The doctors asked them why they had done such horrific things to themselves, and why they wanted the gas again so badly. One of the prisoners gave a simple answer, “I must remain awake.”