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Lab rats die of sleep total deprivation after 2-3 weeks

Chapter 2 Sleep deprivation has profound detrimental effects on healthy productive life

9/22

Alan Rechtschaffen Share this expert AR Allan Rechtschaffen devised an ingenious, albeit cruel experiment to understand the effects of total sleep deprivation. He put two rats on a disc suspended over water. The rats were separated by a barrier in the middle of the disc. The experimental rat was subjected to more severe sleep deprivation than the other control rat. Whenever the experimental rat fell asleep, the change in the rat’s brain waves was detected, and the disc would begin to rotate. The two rats would awaken and had to move to keep from falling into the water below. The control rat was able to sleep whenever the experimental rat was awake. However, it was still exposed to the stressful situation of frequent waking to avoid a sudden bath.

All rats subjected to unrelenting total sleep deprivation died, usually after 2-3 weeks. — Alan Rechtschaffen Share this expert AR Allan Rechtschaffen , Behavioural Brain Research

The experimental rats showed severe effects of sleep deprivation, which the control rats did not. Their fur was disheveled and discolored, and they developed skin lesions. They ate more, thus consumed more energy, but still experienced significant weight loss. The experimental rats lost the ability to regulate their body temperature, and their immune systems began to shut down.

Illustration of the setup of Rechtschaffen's sleep deprivation experiments on rats

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