STUDIES OF sleep deprivation in humans are hard on subjects and often rob researchers of slumber as well. Yet these studies have illuminated some of the functions sleep serves and decrements incurred by going without it. Military personnel, disaster workers, resident physicians, air traffic controllers, and others who often work extreme hours with little rest are among the prime beneficiaries.
Sleep specialists commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first study of sleep deprivation in humans with a symposium on sleep deprivation's neurobehavioral effects at the joint meeting of the American Sleep Disorders Association and Sleep Research Society in Washington, DC, in June. In their 1896 landmark study, G.T.W. Patrick and J.A. Gilbert kept 3 young subjects awake for 90 hours, finding decreases in sensory acuity, reaction time, motor speed, and memorizing ability (Psychological Review. 1896;3:469-483). Similar protocols are used today, although methods of data gathering and analysis grow increasingly more