Eyes Wide Open: Part 1 | Hidden Brain In every city Randy Gardner lived in as a child, he'd enter the science fair. When he moved to San Diego, he decided to do something bold: break the world record for going the longest without sleep.
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Eleven Days Without Sleep: The Haunting Effects Of A Record-Breaking Stunt

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Eleven Days Without Sleep: The Haunting Effects Of A Record-Breaking Stunt

Eleven Days Without Sleep: The Haunting Effects Of A Record-Breaking Stunt

Eleven Days Without Sleep: The Haunting Effects Of A Record-Breaking Stunt

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/562305141/562419796" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Do we really need sleep? Mark Conlan/Getty Images/Ikon Images hide caption

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Mark Conlan/Getty Images/Ikon Images

Do we really need sleep?

Mark Conlan/Getty Images/Ikon Images

Staying up until the early hours of the morning with friends. Skipping sleep to prepare for an exam. These are fairly standard aspects of student life for many young people.

But these sorts of all-nighters pale in comparison to the stunt Randy Gardner pulled when he was 17.

Randy Gardner's sleep stunt gave him 15 minutes of fame and a spot on the game show To Tell The Truth.

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"You don't need sleep. That was the thinking in the 1960s, and that was the thinking I had," said Randy Gardner.

In 1963, Randy stayed awake for eleven days — breaking the world record for going without sleep. Today, at 71, he offers his wisdom about staying up past your bedtime — and describes how his teenage stunt came back to haunt him decades later.

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Maggie Penman, Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, and Renee Klahr. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.