Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Real or Hoax? Photographer Spends 40 Days Without Sleep

Tyler Shields did something this October that most medical experts would consider highly dangerous, irresponsible and most likely impossible. The 28-year-old Los Angeles photographer claims he went 40 days without a wink of sleep. Friends tasked with monitoring Shields insist he was awake the entire time, and never felt the urge to close his eyes and drift away.

If you have your doubts, you’re not alone.

“In all likelihood he has slept, even if he does not think he has,” AASM member Dr. Michael Breus told AOL News. “Many people have what we call ‘microsleeps’ where our brain will go into sleep for even a few seconds.”

Shields claims he’s different than most people. He keeps a busy 24-hour work and social schedule and only needs to sleep a couple nights per week.

It all sounds either an early case of the devastating and impossibly-rare fatal familial insomnia or, in all likelihood, a sham for publicity. After all, Shields makes a living by taking suggestive photos of Lindsay Lohan and other young actresses.

Hoax or not, going long periods without sleep is still extremely unhealthy, which is why the Guinness Book of World Records refuses to recognize records for sleep-deprivation. Extreme sleep deprivation can lead to psychiatric problems such as irritability, depression and even hallucinations. Physical problems can range from elevated blood pressure, to obesity, stroke and heart failure.

Shields says most of the first month was no problem. The symptoms began after day 25 when he began having a bad fever, which he initially fought by eating “like 50 popsicles.“ When the fever came back he sat in a bathtub filled with ice. Then he lost feeling in his legs and then his entire right side. Then the numbness went away and he had to pee every 10 minutes.

He went the entire time without caffeine or stimulants. And he kept productive, taking dozens of photos inspired by sleeplessness.

The photographer says it took more than eight hours to fall asleep after the 40th day was complete. After only six hours of sleep he woke up starving and ate a half loaf of bread sitting on the kitchen floor.

“My head felt like it was going to explode almost as if a tank was driving through a wall and the only think stopping it was my head,” Shields blogged. “I still feel a bit like a balloon floating in space my feet dont feel like they are on the ground”

If this sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. The entire story must be a hoax. It has to be.

Photo by Tyler Shields

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