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Newsletter202004_science of sleep_01_top
The longest human record for
"Not Sleeping"

The most famous "sleep deprivation experiment" took place in 1964, when a 17-year-old high school student in California managed to stay awake for 264 hours, a total of 11 days! Participants who witnessed the experiment claimed that the basketball performance of this high school student during the study was even better than usual. After completing the research, the student could return to school in just a few days, even though he complained he had been suffering insomnia for many years since then. However, there didn't seem to be any severe or fatal adverse effect physiologically or psychologically.

Reading up to here, you may have an idea in your head: Does it mean we don't have to sleep every day? Of course not! According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 hours of not sleeping is equivalent to alcohol content in blood reaching 100 mg; in Hong Kong, if the blood alcohol con-tent reaches 80 mg, it is regarded as a crime of drunk driving. As you can see, 24 hours without sleep is hazardous!

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Is a lack of sleep fatal?


As mentioned above, a lack of sleep increases the risk of accidents, and in severe cases, it can be fatal. According to data from the Transport Department, in 2018 alone, 22 traffic accidents in Hong Kong were caused by drivers falling asleep or driving fatigue. You should also pay attention and be aware of any sleep disorders that might make you feel sleepy, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, etc. A rare hereditary sleep disorder is Fatal Familial Insomnia that has yet to be cured.  It affects the functioning of the thalamus, the brain region that regulates sleep, and makes it difficult for patients to enter deep sleep. Insomnia will progressively worsen over time until the patient can hardly sleep at all. Severe physical and psychological symptoms result, and the patients may eventually enter into a coma until death.

Do HKers only sleep 4 hours a day?


Everyone claims that they require different amounts of sleep per night. According to the American National Sleep Foundation guidelines, healthy adults need between 7-8 hours of sleep to maintain their mental focus.  Children and teens require at least an average of 9 hours of rest per night, de-pending on their age.

However, Hong Kongers have extremely busy working and social lives.  In a recent survey of 173 Hong Kong workers, the results found that people slept an average of 4 hours per night whilst they thought that 6 hours of sleep was adequate. The amount of sleep was not only less than their ideal sleep time but almost half of the international recommendation. A key note to take away from the survey was that just shy of 30% of respondents believed a lack of sleep was a sign of neglecting personal health. The study points out that Hong Kongers failed to realize the importance of adequate sleep and under-estimated the consequences of insufficient sleep.


[1]ᅠBBC NEWS - “The boy who stayed awake for 11days”

[2]ᅠ美國疾病管制與預防中心 -

[3]ᅠ香港運輸署 -

[4]ᅠ香港運輸署 -

[5]ᅠNational Organisation for Rare Disorders -

[6]ᅠ美國睡眠醫學會 -

[7]ᅠ星島日報《調查指港人平均日睡4小時》 -即時-香港-調查指港人平均日睡4小時

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