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Author Topic: Could deprivation of sleep by torture actually kill a person?  (Read 977 times)

Offline Alan McDougall

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Could protracted non-stop total deprivation of sleep by torture actually kill a person?

By this I mean the deliberate act of say, in a torture chamber, of absolutely preventing a person having any form of sleep for weeks or more, "actually lead to death"?

There was a supposed experiment is the USSR back in the day, when they were supposed to have created insane monsters out of the subjects, by this form cruelty and continuous torture. ( This might be an urban myth, however).

Any thoughts

Alan


 

Offline Villi

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People have died from something called Fatal Familial Insomnia where they don't sleep at all and by 6 months they have lethal dementia.
 

Offline Alan McDougall

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People have died from something called Fatal Familial Insomnia where they don't sleep at all and by 6 months they have lethal dementia.

When I posed the question I had already taken that into consideration, (That is a disease) my thread poses a different question requiring a different answer? Torture?

If you were not already welcomed into the forum  "A warm welcome by me"

Alan
« Last Edit: 15/06/2016 08:43:19 by Alan McDougall »
 
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Offline Georgia

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Almost certainly. Back in the day when scientists investigated sleep they often deprived animals like cats of sleep through various methods (putting them on a floating bed so when they fell asleep their heads went in the water, waking them up) - these animals would die. Whether this has actually been done on humans, I'm not sure, but hopefully not!
 

Offline Alan McDougall

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Almost certainly. Back in the day when scientists investigated sleep they often deprived animals like cats of sleep through various methods (putting them on a floating bed so when they fell asleep their heads went in the water, waking them up) - these animals would die. Whether this has actually been done on humans, I'm not sure, but hopefully not!


I read this quote from another forum Quora

If by deliberately, you mean the action of another person, no. Eventually, most people will pass out. The record for a normal person staying awake is 11 days. Unless one was to stimulate the part of the brain responsible for sleep to keep a person awake, they couldn’t force a person to stay awake long enough to result in death.

 

Offline exothermic

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If you're looking for verifiable human evidence - you won't find any however, when we look at the alterations that occur in the rodent model following 11-33 days of chronic sleep deprivation.... we could extrapolate most of the effects pertaining to increased energy expenditure & metabolic rate to humans.

I think ultimately though what would happen is our immune system would be gravely affected through the mechanism of altered mitochondrial redox signalling. I'm thinking septic or cardiogenic shock, but that's merely a guess.


Quote
Behav Brain Res. 1995 Jul-Aug;69(1-2):55-63.
Sleep deprivation in the rat by the disk-over-water method.
Rechtschaffen A1, Bergmann BM.

Chronic sleep deprivation may be required to reveal the most serious physiological consequences of sleep loss, but it usually requires strong stimulation which can obscure the interpretation of effects. The disk-over-water method permits chronic sleep deprivation of rats with gentle physical stimulation that can be equally applied to yoked control rats. A series of studies with this method has revealed little or no pathology in the control rats. The deprived rats show a reliable syndrome that includes temperature changes (which vary with the sleep stages that are lost); heat seeking behavior; increased food intake; weight loss; increased metabolic rate; increased plasma norepinephrine; decreased plasma thyroxine; an increased triiodothyronine-thyroxine ratio; and an increase of an enzyme which mediates thermogenesis by brown adipose tissue. The temperature changes are attributable to excessive heat loss and an elevated thermoregulatory setpoint, both of which increase thermoregulatory load, and the other changes are interpretable as responses to this increased load. This pattern indicates that sleep serves a thermoregulatory function in the rat. The sleep deprived rats also show stereotypic ulcerative and hyperkeratotic lesions localized to the tail and plantar surfaces of the paws, and they die within a matter of weeks; the mediation of these changes is unresolved.
PMID: 7546318


Sleep. 1989 Feb;12(1):13-21.
Sleep deprivation in the rat: III. Total sleep deprivation.
Everson CA1, Bergmann BM, Rechtschaffen A.

Ten rats were subjected to total sleep deprivation (TSD) by the disk apparatus. All TSD rats died or were sacrificed when death seemed imminent within 11-32 days. No anatomical cause of death was identified. All TSD rats showed a debilitated appearance, lesions on their tails and paws, and weight loss in spite of increased food intake. Their yoked control (TSC) rats remained healthy. Since dehydration was ruled out and several measures indicated accelerated use rather than failure to absorb nutrients, the food-weight changes in TSD rats were attributed to increased energy expenditure (EE). The measurement of EE, based upon caloric value of food, weight, and wastes, indicated that all TSD rats increased EE, with mean levels reaching more than twice baseline values.
PMID: 2928622

 

Offline Villi

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It's a good point to raise of whether a person's mind will make them pass out before the sleep deprivation is lethal. I don't think I've ever read of someone being kept awake, through torture for example, until they died. I'm certain it's been tested since humans have tortured one another and even recently Guantanamo detainees were sleep deprived, but the results on humans not published because it would be unethical or result in war crimes or legal prosecutions.

I've heard about people gaming for days straight and not sleeping and dying in their seats. Those deaths could be a result of organ failures due to the gamers neglecting their bodies needs (nutrition, bad circulation from improper sitting) and not necessarily from sleep deprivation.

If the torture was chemical in nature, like injecting a stimulant, then yeah I think they would die. Something like physical stimulation would probably do the same. God forbid someone do something to a real person like what was done to the rats in the above post. But you never know, maybe humans have a super power where they can survive TSD or simply pass out (if it's not pathological like the disease I mentioned).
 

Offline exothermic

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It's a good point to raise of whether a person's mind will make them pass out before the sleep deprivation is lethal.

It wouldn't make much of a difference.

A state of unconsciousness would do nothing to counter the deleterious effects of chronic sleep deprivation. Being unconscious is completely different than sleep.
 

Offline Alan McDougall

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It's a good point to raise of whether a person's mind will make them pass out before the sleep deprivation is lethal. I don't think I've ever read of someone being kept awake, through torture for example, until they died. I'm certain it's been tested since humans have tortured one another and even recently Guantanamo detainees were sleep deprived, but the results on humans not published because it would be unethical or result in war crimes or legal prosecutions.

I've heard about people gaming for days straight and not sleeping and dying in their seats. Those deaths could be a result of organ failures due to the gamers neglecting their bodies needs (nutrition, bad circulation from improper sitting) and not necessarily from sleep deprivation.

If the torture was chemical in nature, like injecting a stimulant, then yeah I think they would die. Something like physical stimulation would probably do the same. God forbid someone do something to a real person like what was done to the rats in the above post. But you never know, maybe humans have a super power where they can survive TSD or simply pass out (if it's not pathological like the disease I mentioned).

Nice response! I think people who are after all mammals like rats could be tortured to death by a deliberate act of cruelty in preventing them from sleeping for a protracted time, of say weeks or even longer.

But you would never here or read about is because it would be kept secret by agencies such as the USSR KGB.
« Last Edit: 16/06/2016 02:46:51 by Alan McDougall »
 

Offline Villi

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It's a good point to raise of whether a person's mind will make them pass out before the sleep deprivation is lethal.

It wouldn't make much of a difference.

A state of unconsciousness would do nothing to counter the deleterious effects of chronic sleep deprivation. Being unconscious is completely different than sleep.

It's a good point to raise of whether a person's mind will make them pass out before the sleep deprivation is lethal. I don't think I've ever read of someone being kept awake, through torture for example, until they died. I'm certain it's been tested since humans have tortured one another and even recently Guantanamo detainees were sleep deprived, but the results on humans not published because it would be unethical or result in war crimes or legal prosecutions.

I've heard about people gaming for days straight and not sleeping and dying in their seats. Those deaths could be a result of organ failures due to the gamers neglecting their bodies needs (nutrition, bad circulation from improper sitting) and not necessarily from sleep deprivation.

If the torture was chemical in nature, like injecting a stimulant, then yeah I think they would die. Something like physical stimulation would probably do the same. God forbid someone do something to a real person like what was done to the rats in the above post. But you never know, maybe humans have a super power where they can survive TSD or simply pass out (if it's not pathological like the disease I mentioned).

Nice response! I think people who are after all mammals like rats could be tortured to death by a deliberate act of cruelty in preventing them from sleeping for a protracted time, of say weeks or even longer.

But you would never here or read about is because it would be kept secret by agencies such as the USSR KGB.

Yes, I agree, I think the damage to the body (such as temperature, metabolism, etc. being misregulated and killing cells probably) from sleep deprivation would probably kill the person and (brief) unconsciousness versus (restful) sleep are very different. But it has not been publicly tested and according to the abstract, it is unknown why the body dies. Until a group of researchers take a group of people and sleep deprive torture them to death and perform autopsies, cell biopsies and more, we don't really know what happens. This would not be allowed to happen under normal circumstances because of ethical review boards for public science. Also, maybe something magical happens when a human gets sleep deprived too much and they don't die? I haven't looked at whether sleep deprivation in apes was done though, which is better than rodent studies I think. We do know a little bit about it through the fatal insomnia diseases where dementia is lethal apparently, but these are different circumstances compared to deliberate sleep deprivation.


 

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