My sleep experiment experience in Australia

Hello!

It’s been a while – the world has been pretty crazy since the last time I posted. Please check this link for sources / info regarding Black Lives Matter. BLM is not a phase – keep the conversations going, keep educating your-self, keep donating if you can, keep signing petitions and keep practising anti-racism.

Today I am writing about something weird and crazy I did during my semester abroad in Australia. I did a six month semester abroad in South Australia – Adelaide during the second half of 2018 in my third year of University.

Now, I am not the smartest with money AT ALL, and typical me – I hardly saved before I went. Let me tell you – Australia is EXPENSIVE. I wanted to do all these amazing travel plans but my bank account was suggesting otherwise. One of my lovely flat mates knew I was stressed about not being able to have enough money to do everything I wanted, so she sent me an advert she saw about wanting participants for a 10 day sleep experiment. If I completed the 10 day experiment, I would receive £800. I didn’t think twice; missed my lectures and seminars (the results didn’t count towards my actual degree), packed my bag and that was that.

The experiment was held at a research University and there were six of us – three girls and three boys. We all had our separate rooms – there were no windows in the room and everything was a weird orange colour. We weren’t allowed to converse with each other throughout our stay, only during breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were only allowed to eat the meals that were set for us, at the same time everyday. It was never enough food, lol, but that was probably me just being greedy. We had our three meals a day and we were given a few snacks throughout the day and night. We weren’t allowed to exercise, do any tasks in the day that would use a lot of brain power and we were only allowed to use our phones three hours a day. They provided us with a TV which had 250 movies (I watched SO many movies) and there were a few rubbish books.

What was the actual experiment about? They wanted to investigate what sleep patterns would make you the most effective during night shifts. The experiment wanted to measure whether the timing of sleep episodes between night shifts can be manipulated to maximise the amount/quality of sleep obtained during the daytime and minimise the impairment in cognitive function during the night. The results would be used to develop guidelines that shift-workers can be used to better cope with night shifts.

Now – the fun bit. What actually happened. Our group’s seven hour sleep condition was a five hour sleep 8am – 1pm and then a two hour sleep just before our night shift at 8pm – 10pm. We were only allowed to sleep during our set times. We then did a, ‘8 hour shift,’ between 11pm – 7am. During our 8 hour shift we completed a series of brain tasks at set times. One of the tasks for e.g. was seeing a green circle and picking what colour the circle was from a list of words; but the word red would’ve been green and the word green would’ve been blue to confuse us. We also had a driving stimulation game with a wheel and pedal as we had to drive to work and drive home from work. By the time the night shift had ended, I literally was driving off the road – I would NOT be able to drive back home after a real night shift. During the break periods between the different brain tasks we were only allowed to sit on the sofa that was in our room which was purposely uncomfortable so we didn’t fall asleep. If we did fall asleep, one of the researches who were looking at us from a secret room would come in our room and wake us up. The amount of times I wanted to say FUCK OFF AND LET ME SLEEP. Lastly, when we slept we had all these wires and stickers on us as we were connected to some sort of machine to measure our sleep, which was very uncomfortable but I got used to it by the end.

Overall it was a very interesting experience to say the least and for £800 I would probably do another similar experiment. Only one out of six of us didn’t complete the whole experiment and quit after the fourth day. It did get lonely and uncomfortable at times, but I then got to enjoy a three week trip around the East Coast of Australia which was definitely worth it.

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