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Cornishman sleeps after 11 days (but he's in for a rude awakening)

By LUKE SALKELD - More by this author » Last updated at 01:16am on 26th May 2007

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After more than 11 days without nodding off, Tony Wright crawled into bed yesterday in the happy belief that he had broken the world sleeplessness record by two hours.

But the poor chap is in for a rude awakening.

His 266-hour feat of endurance will not feature in Guinness World Records because it has stopped acknowledging such attempts for health reasons.

And to make matters worse, someone has already beaten Mr Wright himself by a full ten hours.

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Tony Wright sleepless in cornwall

Tony Wright: stayed awake for 11 days

The 43-year-old gardener finally closed his eyes yesterday for the first time since May 14. Monitored by a webcam and CCTV cameras at his local bar in Penzance, Cornwall, he sustained himself with a "Stone Age" diet of raw fruit and vegetables. He drank tea and, to pass the time, played pool.

Mr Wright believed he was battling to beat a record of 264 hours set by American Randy Gardner in 1964, as part of a high school science project into sleep patterns.

Since then, Guinness has refused to endorse sleeplessness marathons because scientists say they can result in depression, dizziness, hallucinations, irritability, nausea and loss of memory.

But before the ban was enforced, there was time for Toimi Soini, of Hamina, Finland, to set a new best of 276 hours recorded in the Guinness Book of Records from 1965 until 1990.

As father-of-three Mr Wright slumbered yesterday, a friend said: "We have never heard of this. We have not come across it and as far as we knew the only record was the one set by Randy Gardner.

"It is interesting but has not cropped up at all in our research and is not mentioned in any of the books about sleep and sleeplessness."

Mr Wright prepared for his insomniac bout by taking part in a sleeplessness trial at Manchester Metropolitan University in 1998, when he stayed awake for five days.

He says the results of that study showed his physical performance, strength, stamina and balance improved or stayed the same.

And before hitting the sack yesterday, he added: "I did this record to show that the accepted theory is wrong and the brain does not become less effective with tiredness.

"I believe there are different sleep requirements for the two different sides of the brain and as the left side becomes fatigued it loses its ability to stay in charge."

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Tony Wright sleepless in cornwall

Tony Wright insists that a person can stay awake for massive amounts of time with no adverse reaction

He said the "Stone Age" diet of raw food helped parts of his brain to stay awake and remain functional for long periods.

"It makes it much easier to switch from one side of the brain which is really tired, to the other. But both are pretty tired at the moment."

On the effects of sleep deprivation, he admitted: "I do feel very strange.

"Everything around me has become more intense and after a while colours seem brighter.

"My eyes have become very sensitive. I had to start wearing sunglasses after 70 hours because looking at a laptop was sending me into a trance."

He added: "There were a couple of tricky moments where I could feel my body wanting to shut down and I had to act quickly to stimulate it.

"Suddenly I would realise I was relaxing and the urge to sleep was dragging me down - I had to jump up, eat or drink something and occupy myself.

"It was tricky striking a balance between being active but not wearing myself out. My voice is very hoarse and I'm sure I look a right state."

He added: "I might not make it into Guinness but I have set a world record and it is there to be beaten by anyone who wants to try. This is my life project and I'm very happy to prove you can stay awake for long periods of time without suffering adverse reactions.

"I feel pretty good. It's been a bit of a slog, but I got there. I am now looking forward to getting under a duvet."

Guinness World Records said its staying awake category had not been recognised for several years after consultation with the British Association for Counselling and Psycho therapy.

Researchers were informed that attempts to break the record could pose serious risks, both physically and psychologically.

They were also concerned that victims of chronic insomnia could have stayed awake for far longer than anyone claiming to have broken any records.

"We do have records for other feats such as sword swallowing which may appear to be dangerous but they are carried out by professional stunt men under carefully-controlled conditions designed to ensure nobody is put at risk.

"People who attempt records should make sure their research is accurate or they may be very disappointed."

Comment Add your comment | View all Comments (14)

14 people have commented on this story so far. Tell us what you think below.

Here's a sample of the latest comments published. You can click view all to read all comments that readers have sent in.

I suffered from chronic insomnia for a 500-day period during college, and my grade point average then was an entire point below my GPA in the unaffected years. As it turned out, the insomnia was due to a rare side effect of my allergy medicine. Due to the insomnia, on many occasions I went on for 48 or more hours without any sleep. Once, I lasted more than 100 hours without any sleep whatsoever. Toward the end of that period, I was hallucinating awfully, and bright lights forced me to shield or completely close my eyes. I also felt extremely passive and miserable, wanting sleep but painfully unable to do so.

If Mr. Wright's experiment sheds some light on how people suffering from insomnia might overcome their difficulties, or how they might ameliorate the symptoms if overcoming the problem isn't quite feasible, then so much the better. I cannot believe him when he insinuates that his sleepless state is even remotely enjoyable.

- Joseph, Raleigh, NC

New parents bore me. They believe they carry the cross for the rest of the world!

- That Guy, USA

Hell, ask a Marine, I'm sure more than a few of us have maintained an operational tempo for close to this. And that is with full gear, in a combat zone, not in a bar shooting pool.

- Gyrene, USA

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