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180 Hours Straight of Sleep Deprivation Is Just Fine

Sleep deprivation for almost six days straight does not cause severe physical suffering, the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel concluded. Although in previous memos, the office had concluded categorically that all sleep deprivation was okay, the office decided to take a more careful look in its May 10, 2005 memo.

“Under the limitations provided by the CIA, sleep deprivation is not to exceed 180 hours” — that’s just four hours short of six full days — which we understand is approximately two-thirds of the maximum recorded time that humans have gone without sleep for purposes of medical study…” Although the subjects in those studies were allowed to move around, eat well and relax, whereas the detainees were shackled and “may be placed on a reduced-calorie diet,” the OLC lawyers aren’t too worried about that.

“[W]e understand that experts that have studied sleep deprivation have concluded that “[t]he most plausible reason for the uneventful physical findings with these human beings is that … sleep loss is not particularly harmful.”

Oh, and it’s not painful, either.

Nevertheless after 180 hours, the prisoner must be allowed to sleep at least 8 hours. Then, the CIA guidelines allowed interrogators to start the sleep deprivation process all over again.

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