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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
How man pushed sleepless limits
Tony Wright
Tony Wright said raw food could be the key to fending off sleep
Cornishman Tony Wright has stayed awake for 11 days and nights to find out the effect sleep deprivation had on his brain.

After five days he recorded in his online diary visions of "giggling dancing pixies and elves" appearing on his computer screen, such was the impact that going without sleep had on the 42-year-old.

On Friday he claimed to have beaten the record for sleep deprivation, although the Guinness Book of Records no longer recognises attempts at the challenge.

Health risks

It says it no longer recognises attempts at the challenge, set in 1964 by American student Randy Gardner, because of the potential health risks involved.

But apart from the dancing pixies and some blisters on his feet from all-night pool playing, writer and researcher Mr Wright appears to have come through the experience unscathed.

His home for the last 11 nights has been the Studio Bar in Penzance where, buoyed by a regular stream of visitors, he says he has achieved his aim, despite not gaining official recognition.

Monitored by webcam and CCTV, his daily routine consisted of eating a diet of raw food - including fruit, salad, seeds and nuts - drinking herb tea, writing his blog for BBC Cornwall and chatting with friends.

At other times, he appeared to be suspiciously motionless, prompting concerns for his safety and sparking rumours that he had nodded off.

Writing while sleep deprived is easily the most difficult thing to do
Tony Wright

Writing in his online diary, Mr Wright said: "The webcam seems to give an unhelpful impression of total stillness when one is merely pondering one's creative insights (or in this case lack of them).

"Several emails appeared and the phone rang to point out the lack of vital signs so efforts were made to ensure my existence had not prematurely ended."

But by day six he "began to feel really confident that the record was mine for the taking".

However, even writing the blog was becoming too much by day eight.

"Every attempt to glance at the screen can end up in a nosedive," he wrote.

But he added: "I'm no quitter, shaking the concussion from my last crash out of my head I grabbed my sunglasses and without hesitation looked straight into the middle of the screen.

"No swirling hieroglyphs, dancing pixies or sudden NSE (near sleep experience), at last a safe screen for heavily sleep deprived bloggers."

Tony Wright
Mr Wright's home for the challenge was the Studio Bar in Penzance

On day 10 he realised what many others have in the past, that being sleep deprived is not good for writing.

"As it turns out writing while sleep deprived is easily the most difficult thing to do, for that reason I have decided I won't write anymore, so this will be my last entry," he said.

At the end of it all, Mr Wright announced it as a victory for his theory that a raw food diet enabled him to switch between sides of the brain that require a different amount of sleep.

"I've really been looking to bring attention to changing variables in human lifestyle," he said.

"For example if you build in a diet similar to our ancestors, will our brain work in a different way, does it mean we can have less sleep?"

Dolphins sleep on one side of the brain, but human organs are not designed that way
Dr Chris Idzikowski

Dr Chris Idzikowski of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre told BBC News that he was sceptical about the claims.

"It's a nice idea if it works," he said.

"Dolphins sleep on one side of the brain, but human organs are not designed that way."

He said that someone would have to be monitored in a controlled environment to prove the ability to switch sides of the brain. That would also prove if the subject was constantly awake.

"If you don't wire them up, you don't know what they are up to, whether there is any cat-napping or not, which they may not be aware of."

Dr Idzikowski said it was unlikely raw food would affect the ability to stay awake and added that Mr Wright should not suffer any ill-effects from his self-imposed ordeal.

"Humans have an amazing ability to bounce back from lack of sleep," he said.

"It's like jet-lag. I would have thought that he would be fully recovered in three days."

Man claims new sleepless record
25 May 07 |  Cornwall
Sleepless record man feeling fine
22 May 07 |  Cornwall
Sleepless record attempt starts
14 May 07 |  Cornwall


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