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Drugs Eradicate the Need For Sleep 772

MattSparkes writes "New Scientist is running an article on lifestyle drugs that claim to help you function on little or no sleep. I'm dubious, but the interviewee in the article claims they work well. 'Yves (not his real name), a 31-year-old software developer from Seattle, often doesn't have time for a full night's sleep. So he swallows something to make sure he doesn't need one.'" But, sleep is where I'm a Viking!
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Drugs Eradicate the Need For Sleep

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  • Not good..... (Score:5, Informative)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:14PM (#16951316) Homepage Journal
    Speaking as a scientist who used to study sleep and sleep disorders, I have to say this is troubling. Sleep has evolved for a purpose and a number of studies have shown that sleep is necessary or crucial to consolidate long term memories, stabilize mood and more. If you are a simple automaton in your job, then *perhaps* you might be able to get away with something like modafinil for short periods of time, but if your job requires thought and the use of memory and higher cognitive function, then you are doing yourself a disservice by taking these drugs. I worry that the long term effects will not become apparent until years later, like I suspect [] might happen with PDE inhibitors like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra.

    Humans have evolved an organized architecture of sleep where we progress through a number of stages of sleep. In other words, sleep is an active state that is not homogenous in that there are five generally accepted states of sleep separate from consciousness. Stages 1 and 2 are light sleep whereas 3 and 4 are deeper, more restful states of sleep with lower brain metabolic rates and more cortical synchronization. Stage 5 or REM sleep is actually a very active stage of sleep with very high metabolic requirements rivaling that or exceeding wakefulness and its thought that REM sleep may be necessary for memory consolidation. The trick is that the architecture of sleep is broken up into various stages and you do not really approach the most intense REM periods until after you have progressed back and forth through some of the other stages including a more brief period of REM sleep earlier in the night. So, the most intense REM period is late into sleep and often early in the morning. If you short change yourself of the other sleep periods, you reduce the quantity and quality of your REM sleep period.

    • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:19PM (#16951394) Journal
      I've always wondered about the need for sleep. For an animal to allow itself to go into an extremely vulnerable state every day for hours it must have a VERY good reason for doing so. The fact that sleep has been passed along in our genes even in the face of natural selection (sorry creationist museum) shows this. I think we've barely penetrated the real reasons for sleep.
      • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Golthur ( 754920 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:22PM (#16951480)
        Not that I necessarily agree with this, but Carl Sagan hypothesized in Dragons of Eden that mammals were originally nocturnal, and evolved sleep so as to be still (and thus more difficult to spot) during the day when the reptiles (which dominated all niches when mammals first evolved) were active.
        • by Cemu ( 968469 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:58PM (#16952224)
          And yet we snore, toss and turn, twitch, and sometimes talk in our sleep. Nothing says easy meal more than a loud unconscious mammal.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jank1887 ( 815982 )
            civilization has allowed people with weaker traits to survive and procreate, propegating the weak trait... rather than being eaten by the dinosaurs they coexisted with (yippee creationist museum)
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Alsee ( 515537 )
              So, the solution is to clone some dinosaurs...
              strap saddles on their backs...
              watch creationists walk up and try to ride them...
              and get eaten.

              Well I guess that's one way to clean the gene pool.

          • by sbrown123 ( 229895 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:20PM (#16954068) Homepage
            And yet we snore, toss and turn, twitch, and sometimes talk in our sleep. Nothing says easy meal more than a loud unconscious mammal.

            What are you talking about? Snoring is a defensive measure. Hell, it probably sounded like a large herd of vicious animals roaring when you put enough humans together snoring in unison.

            And if that's not enough, I imagine that these early humans probably didn't do much in the way of bathing. Nothing says "I just tossed my lunch" than being downwind from a large pack of primitive humans.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            those are all sleep disorders with huge consequences in our awake life... the parent is a sleep researcher, that's what they do. Many, many people have those problems and even "trivial" things like snoring actually affect your progression thru the sleep levels.. they force your body into "panic" mode to change your position which stops REM sleep. Other things like the tossing and twitching are a sign of "restless leg syndrome" a combination of built up stress and lack of physical exercise... i.e. being a
        • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:11PM (#16952528) Homepage Journal
          In support of the nocturnal mammal evolution theory, our vision system has only three colors whereas most non-mammals have four. Birds that appear dull grey are sometimes brightly colored to others of their speices, because of their superior color vision. Losing a color, however, makes more room for light sensitive, b&w sensing rods.

          With respect to the risks of sleep -- perhaps. It may be that specializing for night or day is a better overall strategy than trying to be able to operate around the clock. Maybe you're a daytime animal that relies on speed. If you can't see at night that speed is less useful. Maybe you're a nighttime animal that relies on stealth. That stealth is impaired during the day. So, even without sleep, you'd be looking for a safe place to den up during your off time.
          • Cones do not detect color, rods do not detect black and white.

            Cones are sensitive to daylight conditions while rods are sensitive to low-light conditions. Your cones are inactive during night lighting conditions and you still construct your visual field in color. As a result of being keyed to daylight, cones are also used for edge perception. As such, you will find it quite impossible to read by moonlight, as reading requires your cones to distinguish very fine edges and your cones are inactive in nigh-ligh
      • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@w o r f . n et> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:30PM (#16951676)
        I've always wondered about the need for sleep. For an animal to allow itself to go into an extremely vulnerable state every day for hours it must have a VERY good reason for doing so. The fact that sleep has been passed along in our genes even in the face of natural selection (sorry creationist museum) shows this. I think we've barely penetrated the real reasons for sleep.

        In fact, there are animals that don't appear to sleep, but actually do (dolphins, for example). What they do is sleep half their body and brain at a time. So there's obviously some benefit, as they've evolved the necessity to remain awake, but still get the sleep they need. (Unless it really happens to be some anomaly of evolution (another strike against creationism), like the appendix or spleen, that affects basically the entire population of living creatures). But I would think the dolphins proved otherwise, since they'd be the first to do away completely with sleep.

        But a concern is still the long term side effects. By playing with stuff like this, would it lead to mental insanity later on due to paranoia or schizophrenia? We are, after all, playing with the mental state of mind (I'm sure tired muscles still remain tired even after popping the pills, even though the brain says it's fresh). The fact that the miliary trials concluded that it's only useful to about 48 hours wakefulness seems to imply that it doesn't reduce the need for sleep, just reduces the feelings of the need for sleep/sleepiness. We may end up with a population of zombies in a decade or two's time.

        Anyhow, when did pill-popping become fashionable? I fear the day where it's "uncool" to not stick some drug in you as part of your daily routine in order to get through the day (as opposed to treating disease). Or the "there's a drug for everything" mentality.
        • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:45PM (#16951986)
          , like the appendix or spleen

          The appendix and spleen are NOT vestigial organs. While you can survive without them, your immune system is stronger if you keep them.

          You can survive without your right arm, therefore it's vestigial, correct?

          Statements like that (e.g., the appendix and spleen do not perform necessary functions) make evolutionists look stupid. Please research physiology before you try to prove evolution with misguided "facts."
          • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Informative)

            by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:50PM (#16953392) Homepage

            The appendix and spleen are NOT vestigial organs.

            True of the spleen, but at least according to wikipedia [] it's still controversial whether the appendix serves any real purpose:

            One explanation has been that the appendix is a vestigial structure with no current purpose.[citation needed] The appendix is thought to have descended from an organ in our distant herbivorous ancestors called the cecum (or caecum). The cecum is maintained in modern herbivores, where it houses the bacteria that digest cellulose, a chemically tough carbohydrate that these animals could not otherwise utilize. The human appendix contains no significant number of these bacteria, and cellulose is indigestible to us. It seems likely that the appendix lost this function before our ancestors became recognizably human.

            Maybe you're thinking of the tonsils?

            Statements like that (e.g., the appendix and spleen do not perform necessary functions) make evolutionists look stupid.

            From what I understand of evolutionary theory, that's not really accurate. It takes the correct mutations to eliminate organs that no longer serve any purpose. As long as they don't provide any disadvantage, they're not going to be eliminated from the gene pool.

            If anything, the existence of vestigial structures make intelligence design/creationists look stupid. Why would an intelligence designer create a structure that serves no purpose, (though the same structure exists in other "lower" animals that the organism and the animal both likely evolved from a common ancestor)?
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by headonfire ( 160408 )
              Yeah, er, that article about the appendix is a bit wrong, or at least misleading; and you're quoting it out of context by ignoring the beginning paragraph about how the appendix connects.

              Humans _do_ have a cecum. It's at the beginning of the large intestine; it's the juncture where the small bowel(the ileum, more precisely) and large bowel meet. It's a bit of a pouch shape. There's also the ileocecal valve, which handles flow control. The appendix is directly connected to the cecum. The thing is hardly 'v
        • I fear the day where it's "uncool" to not stick some drug in you as part of your daily routine in order to get through the day
          Coffee, anyone?
        • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by nido ( 102070 ) <nido56 AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:35PM (#16953082) Homepage
          What they [dolphins] do is sleep half their body and brain at a time.

          There was a post here some years back by someone who claimed to be able to do this. He [?] said he only found it useful for long-distance road trips.

          As I recall, his method worked through totally relaxing (via self hypnosis) half the body at a time.
          • by Kyont ( 145761 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:10PM (#16953844)
            > There was a post here some years back by someone who claimed to be able to do this.
            > He [?] said he only found it useful for long-distance road trips.

            > As I recall, his method worked through totally relaxing (via self hypnosis) half the body at a time.

            We haven't heard from that guy in a while. Apparently, he was killed in a single-car accident at 4 a.m. on I-80 in central Nevada. Misjudged a curve due to a lack of depth perception while his left eye was sleeping.
          • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Reziac ( 43301 ) * on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:41PM (#16954548) Homepage Journal
            That was me. I'll close one eye for about half an hour, and the effect is as if I've taken a nap. It apparently works by shutting off input to half of the brain, letting that half relax.

            It's more effective if I shut the right eye, albeit leading to terror in the passenger seat. :)

            (I also take more-ordinary naps at home, which tend to hover at the edge of sleep. And I'm naturally a *very* light sleeper, and a sunrise person.)

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Coulson ( 146956 )
              It apparently works by shutting off input to half of the brain, letting that half relax.

              Both eyes are connected to both hemispheres of your brain. It's not that everything seen by your left eye is processed by the right half of your brain: everything seen on the left half of your visual field -- regardless of which eye -- is processed by the right side of your brain.

              Closing one eye does not cut off input to half your brain. You'd have to close the left half of both eyes, which isn't going to work unless y
      • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by amliebsch ( 724858 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:30PM (#16951694) Journal
        It does seem severely evolutionarily disadvantageous, doesn't it? Honest question, for anybody who knows: what is the lowest order of animal life that requires sleep? Eukaryotes don't sleep, do they? Do worm? Jellyfish? Is there some connection between higher-order brain activity and the need to sleep, and does it differ by species?
        • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:38PM (#16951850) Homepage Journal
          Actually, you *are* a eukaryote and most of us posting here on Slashdot are with the exception of those that have foed me I suspect. :-)

          Seriously though, worms, jellyfish and other "lower" invertebrates do exhibit periods of inactivity as do even prokaryotes such as bacteria. This period of "inactivity" is often crucial for normal physiological processes to occur. The important thing to note here is that through evolution, "higher" organisms appear to have accumulated a number of circadian clocks related to a variety of physiological functions and the "higher" up an organism is, the more clocks for various functions are accumulated.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Vellmont ( 569020 )
            Hmm.. well I think what the GP was asking was more specific to REM sleep. Perhaps what we call "sleep" is really a collection of different processes that serve different purposes (I'm guessing that's already been shown). You've already talked about processing long-term memories. Do we know how low this aspect of sleep goes down into organism complexity? I know dogs dream.. how about birds or reptiles?

            Also, what else occurs during sleep to the rest of the body (other than the brain). Is there some gre
          • Re:Not good..... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by amliebsch ( 724858 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:15PM (#16952678) Journal

            I guess it boils down to this:

            Is the requirement of sleep enforced by our brains because it is
            (a) an irreducibly necessary part of living for physiological or neurochemical reasons, like breathing, or
            (b) a behavior that was evolutionarily advantageous in the wild?

            If (a), then these kinds of drugs are very troubling. If (b), then I would probably have no more qualms taking these than, say, a pain-killer.

        • Re:Not good..... (Score:4, Informative)

          by kelleher ( 29528 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:55PM (#16954838) Homepage
          Here's a table of average daily sleep time for various animals.

 l []

      • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:00PM (#16952286) Homepage Journal
        I've wondered about it too, and then I got to wondering just how vulnerable a sleeping animal is. If you're about and about, you're making noise, being visible, creating a scent trail. If you're well hidden, such as in an underground den, you can pretty much go unmolested by any animal that might try to eat you. If an animal tries to dig you out, you have plenty of advance warning. Consider how many animals hibernate during the winter. For a prey animal, being out and about is the vulnerable period.
      • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Doctor Memory ( 6336 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:11PM (#16952536)
        One thing I've noticed (which may or may not be real) is that my daughter seems to grow in her sleep. She'll enter a period (usually days) of increased appetite and activity, then one night she'll be very sleepy and go to bed early and I'll swear the next morning she's taller. She also has a definite decrease in stomach size, although whether this is related to fat-burning or an overall increase in body size I couldn't say.

        Again, all apochyphal information, I haven't actually done before-and-after measurements. Still, there's a noticable difference, and after the growth spurt her appetite and activity level return to normal. So sleep may be a necessary component of the body's growth/repair mechanisms. It would be interesting to see if people who take this sleep-counteracting compound take longer to heal.
        • You're right (Score:4, Informative)

          by LunaticTippy ( 872397 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:37PM (#16953118)
          Most people grow when they sleep. Then, their vertebrae compress during the day and they go to bed shorter. While horozontal the discs uncompress, resulting in "growth." Astronauts get about 2 inches taller in low gravity, but for us earthbound folk it is less, maybe 1-2 cm. Here [] is a link I found.
      • Need for sleep (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dargaud ( 518470 ) <slashdot2@gdarga[ ]net ['ud.' in gap]> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:52PM (#16953458) Homepage
        I read a paper in computational theory that went more or less like this. They proved via lambda calculus (the base maths of computational theory) that any sufficiently complex system needs a 'cleanup function'. In practical computer terms, it's the infamous garbage disposal process where lost pointers are dropped, unused pages are flushed from memory, seldom used memory commited to long term storage (mem to cache, cache to disk, disk to tape, etc...), data reorganised (in databases) or compressed, etc... During this period few, if any, real computing activity can continue; this translates as "if you don't reboot regularly, your computer will crash or you need a good garbage disposal process which will slow down your system for a while".

        Now if you believe (like many) that the brain is no more than a big computing unit, then it must abides by those rules and the sleep is nothing else than the physical manifestation of 'garbage disposal'. Keep it up for too long and it will... crash.

    • Plus there's that "Sleepless []" episode of the X-Files from Season Two where soldiers were given medication and treatment during Vietnam so that they'd never sleep ... I won't give away any spoilers as it's quite the enjoyable episode.
    • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lawaetf1 ( 613291 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:29PM (#16951640)
      I couldn't agree more. I'm not a sleep scientist but find it alarming how willing people are to submit to the "hey, it works!" credo as if they were putting some new additive in their car's fuel tank.

      The problem is:

      So how does modafinil work? "No one really knows," admits Vaught.

      Of course should this drug turn out to cause major depression later in life I'm sure the pharma world will be waiting with open arms and a handful of prescriptions. It's pitiful how quality of life, savoring being human (yes, damn it, savoring being an absolute loaf for a day or month or year), is so readily sacrificed for the treadmill of modernity.

      Work harder, get a bonus, go ski with friends in Aspen! Buy an Audi! Vacation in Bali! You too can have "it" if you peddle just a little harder!!

      Pass me a good book and a sunset any day. I used to subscribe to the rat race and am eternally grateful that I learned early on what a farce it is. Sadly this country's economic model is based on the "more, more" mindset and, almost necessarily, popular culture reinforces it at every turn.
    • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mprx ( 82435 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:30PM (#16951672)
      REM sleep can't be necessary for memory consolidation, because monoamine oxidase inhibitors eliminate REM sleep, but not not impair memory even if used for a long time. Furthermore, this is a there is a case of brain injury which eliminated REM sleep but did not impair memory. full.html []
      • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:41PM (#16951898) Homepage Journal
        But other studies have indicated increased performance in those subjects allowed REM sleep versus those subjects who have been selectively deprived of REM sleep. Other studies still have shown a reduction (higher efficiency) in brain metabolism in those subjects performing tasks who have been allowed REM sleep versus those other subjects who have been selectively sleep deprived. I am on a very narrow connection here and out of time for posting for now or I would find those references for you. But a simple Medline search should bring them up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      You have excellent points. Unfortunately, now that many advertising restrictions on drugs have been removed, the drug industry can effectively push drugs onto Americans without rational voices such as your own being fairly considered. Combine this with human nature to succeed and excel relative to one's peers, and you have the possibility for us to quickly go down the path of re-engineering ourselves for excellence.

      The idea of everyone having an IQ of 300, being able to sleep 4 hours a week, and never
      • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jeffy210 ( 214759 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:59PM (#16952252)
        towards turning ourselves into something unrecognizable as human by today's standards.

        Playing devil's advocate here: And the problem with this is? Isn't it in man's nature to attempt to improve themselves? Assuming the negative impacts are not great, what is wrong with us having an extra limb (don't know the benefits, just for sake of argument)? It's just a natural process of evolution. We look nothing like the creatures we evolved from, but that is because our form is functional for what we do. In the future, this form may not be the most functional (i'd argue it's not right now, but all things take time).
      • we are gaining the technology to enhance ourselves, and it will be a game of constant one-upmanship. Ethical discussions will prevent us from moving too fast..

        "Ethical" discussions tend to take the ironic form of, "Hey, stop doing that. I get to say how you live."

        ..but I fear these concerns would have no impact on a slow progression towards turning ourselves into something unrecognizable as human by today's standards.

        We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

    • by mattwarden ( 699984 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:35PM (#16951792)

      I worry that the long term effects will not become apparent until years later, like I suspect [] might happen with PDE inhibitors like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra.

      Well, I guess if you're going to take away my PDE inhibitors, I might as well sleep anyway.

    • by shambalagoon ( 714768 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:11PM (#16952552) Homepage
      The true horror of this drug is that if it does become commonplace and people need less sleep, my bet is that capitalism will adapt itself to this new reality and we will soon be working 14-16 hour days.

      Dont believe it? Look what happened as women entered the workplace in larger numbers in the last few decades (of course this is a good thing). As the number of workers increased, the relative incomes fell. When once a single worker could bring in enough money to support himself, his spouse, and his 2.5 kids, now it is almost necessary for both parents to work to be able to make ends meet. Think what it would be like if capitalism hadnt adapted to this influx of workers - each parent could work a 20-hour week and have the same relative income as 50 years ago.

      Likewise, as waking time becomes less scarce, those willing and able to work longer hours will get the jobs and steadily raise the bar and the expectations of what's a normal amount to work each week. Maybe they'll get paid more and the increasing wealth will cause the cost of goods and services to rise, which increases the need for working the longer hours.

      IANAE (I am not an Economist) so I'm probably wrong on some details, but this seems like a likely general trend, IMHO.
      • by LunaticTippy ( 872397 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:48PM (#16953356)
        I disagree. You're comparing different lifestyles. The stay-at-home-mom generation had one small house, one car, and a couple of appliances. They ate out rarely, packed lunches, and had one telephone.

        If a typical family lived in a 1200 square foot home, had one car, only the home phone, no cable/internet/cellphone, and didn't blow money on dining out and buying things they'd only need one income to do it.

        I know there has been flat/declining real wages for some time now, but our standards are higher.

        I think some people would be better off working less. You end up paying a lot for child care, eating out, 2nd car, etc.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rgoldste ( 213339 )
          I disagree, and I'll quote you a source: Elizabeth Warren, "The Two Income Trap" (Warren is a bankruptcy professor at Harvard Law School). Warren goes through the data and shows that your argument is false: families today do not spend more money on luxuries than in the 1950s, and the two cars come from needing both to get to work.

          In fact, Warren argues that capitalism adapted just as the grandparent predicted: when some women went to work, some families had more disposable income. By and large, those fami
    • Re:Not good..... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Frangible ( 881728 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:20PM (#16952780)
      Exactly. Sleep-cheating drugs are nothing new-- look at methamphetamine. It's about 100 years old and is very effective, moreso than modafinil, for treating narcolepsy. People stay up for over two weeks with it (nevermind 48 hours!) but after a point an interesting thing happens where the brain hemispheres start taking turns shutting down and going into REM sleep. To the user, half their brain is dreaming and the other half awake, leading to an odd fused state of hallucinations that cannot be distinguished from reality. It's interesting to note this same behavior happens in some mammal (I don't recall which) that naturally does not sleep.

      Beyond the acute effects though most mammals pushed through drugs like meth to avoid sleep simply die in studies after a month. The circadian cycle is needed for proper homeostasis. Sleep deprivation causes symptoms of ADHD (ironically, treated with stimulants), obesity via lower leptin and higher ghrelin levels, and a very nasty cycle of altered immune, inflammatory and glial response.

      One other interesting thing to note is that the human circadian cycle specifically tracks dawn and dusk, via the CLOCK genes mPer1 and mPer2 -- mPer1 being dawn and mPer2 being dusk. If there is no gradual "dusk" period before sleep, direct changes in gene expression -- outside of sleep deprivation -- result in a persistently lowered level of tyrosine hydroxylase, interfering with dopamine levels. Dopamine is of course a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, goal seeking behavior, wakefulness, attention, etc. So therefore perish the dusk, perish the dopamine. And yet this commonly happens -- artificial lighting, computer / TV screens, etc right up to the moment of sleep destroy melatonin production and any sort of proper expression of mPer2 activity. Over time this results in low cortisol and catecholamine levels during the day (fatigue), higher levels at night (as the melatonin/hormonal peaks become disturbed), and increased hunger/activity during the missing dusk period, as you in essence train the natural oscillation to favor alertness at that time -- when it cannot be sustained.

      Taking stimulants, be they modafinil, the neurotoxic ampakines, or amphetamine, only partially reverses some of these things. They increase neurotransmitter and cortisol levels -- but also do this when their levels should be lower! Chronic levels of cortisol alters body composition to favor muscle catabolism (breakdown), fat retention, annihilation of the thyroid hormone T3 into reverse T3 thus fucking up thermogenesis and the metabolism, and causing atrophy of the hippocampus and disruption of memory. This also results in suppression of the immune system, increased inflammatory response, increased stress/anxiety, etc etc.

      Do any of these things sound like "happiness" you would take a pill for? Shut down the computer and TV, and artificial lighting sources at least an hour before bed. Relax, in dim light. Train yourself with a normal schedule in sync with the sun. You'll have greater alertness during the day, lower hunger, higher energy, better memory, and sleep better.

      We are a nation of stimulus junkies, always wanting to be entertained by something novel, with no thought for relaxation, rest, or recovery. When our novelty seeking behaviors disrupts our normal diurnal behaviors, the answer isn't to take drugs and start the cycle anew, but to perform these behaviors in moderation and balance.

      Try turning off your electronic shit a bit early tonight and relaxing before sleep at a normal, consistent time. In a week, you'll be surprised at the huge difference it makes.
  • Refreshing (Score:3, Funny)

    by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@AAAtpno ... inus threevowels> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:15PM (#16951328) Homepage
    "New Scientist is running an article on lifestyle drugs that claim to help you function on little or no sleep. I'm dubious, but the interviewee in the article claims they work well. 'Yves (not his real name), a 31- year-old software developer from Seattle, often doesn't have time for a full night's sleep. So he swallows something to make sure he doesn't need one.'"

    It's refreshing to see evolution still at work.
  • They should try selling this to new parents. My wife would surely love to get her hands on some.
  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:16PM (#16951340) Journal
    But, sleep is where I'm a viking!

    Don't worry, Taco! After 100 hours or so awake, you'll BE a viking, raping and pillaging and showing those pink elephants who's boss!
    • by corychristison ( 951993 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:51PM (#16952106)
      This reminds me of the time I tried to stay awake for as long as I could. I hit 93 hours or so. Note that this incident did not involve any drugs. Legal or otherwise.

      I was still fairly young then, at the age of 14 or so. I was out with friends on the final night of my experiment and I started to see things and totally freaked out. One of the hallucinations was indeed a miniature pink elephant. As well I thought a tree was a very large spider. I have a terrible fear of spiders. After my friends managed to get me into the house and calmed me down, I suddenly got up and went out into the back yard to jump on the trampoline. It was -10 degree's Celsius or so and I was just wearing Jeans and a T-Shirt. I couldn't tell the difference. All I remember is having them waking me up and having to be rushed to the hospital. I was jumping on the trampoline and slipped. I flew off and cracked my head on a mound of ice. I'm just glad one of the springs didn't break or on the trampoline and hit me in the ass or something. It was fairly cold.

      I stayed in the hospital for the night as the thought I may have had a concussion. I still don't remember any of that week. What I told you now is what my friends have told me. I also heard that earlier on in my experiment [first 24 hours I suppose] I had exclaimed to my friends that my toothpaste had started talking to me the next day at school.

      Now I enjoy my sleep.

      Pills? No thanks. I prefer the natural method of recovering from a hard days work writing code. :-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tired_Blood ( 582679 )
        I was 18 for my marathon of 104 hours. I wrote about it here [] as AC. I strongly advise against any drug assistance for this type of activity.

        I suddenly got up and went out into the back yard to jump on the trampoline.

        In my experience, I was acutely aware of my slowed physical state (reaction times were slower and very low motivation for activity). As such, I became very cautious with my movements, and would have never thought to do something like that (walking up stairs was my most strenuous activity duri

  • by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:17PM (#16951342) Journal
    This just in: New Scientist discovers cocaine. Story at 11.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Jack Bauer's big secret is out. What chance does he stand next season when the terrorists can go 24 hours without sleeping as easily as he can?
  • Doctor: Now, what seems to be the problem?
    Patient: I got it bad, doc, I barely get any sleep ... I need some modafinil--or my life will fall apart!
    Doctor: Now hold on there, I don't go around giving prescriptions of that to just anyone! You're young, you look like you're in good shape, why don't you get any sleep?
    Patient: Well, it's just that ... I'm a ... software developer.
    Doctor: My GOD! Why didn't you say anything? *yells out the door* Nurse! I'm going to need a lifetime's supply of modafinil--stat!
    Patient: Oh thank you, doc, thank you so much!
    Doctor: Everything's going to be alright, plus it seems your company's health care is willing to provide 100% of the funding for this with no deductable, can't say I've seen that before. Now you say that you're married as well? Then I'm going to recommend you take two of these every day with fifth of bourbon ...
  • Yikes. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:17PM (#16951360) Homepage Journal
    Modafinil is just the first of a wave of new lifestyle drugs that promise to do for sleep what the contraceptive pill did for sex
    So from now on we'll have to sleep in rubber sleeping bags if we don't want it to kill us?
  • Old news (Score:4, Informative)

    by WinkyN ( 263806 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:18PM (#16951384) Homepage
    This story appeared in the New Scientist in mid-February 2006.
  • by cucucu ( 953756 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:20PM (#16951404)
    Sleep eradicates the need for this drug.

  • by qwijibo ( 101731 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:20PM (#16951406)
    It's reassuring to see that pharmaceutical companies can make a pill to solve every problem, even ones that weren't a real problem before they came up with a pill.
  • by antirelic ( 1030688 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:20PM (#16951412) Journal
    "In 10 to 20 years we'll be able to pharmacologically turn sleep off." Wow! Right around that time I should be able to stay awake behind the wheel of my flying car powered by a comercially available fusion generator! In 10-20 years, everything will be great!
  • Hmmm... Not Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:21PM (#16951446) Homepage Journal
    If it's artificially interfering with a normal function of life and it's not involved in preventing a life threatening disease, it's just a bad idea. Myself, I only need four to six hours a night and I can function well. I actually natrually wake up after six hours even without an alarm clock. I've always been that way. If I really need to puch myself I can get by with two hours sleep. This is perfectly natural. Back in the 90s I read a book on sleep and it stated that most humans need the typical eight hours of sleep. It also revealed that in a few sleep studies where the subjects are kept from knowing the real time or seeing any cues (daylight), that they tended to sleep more on the order of 10 hours a night with their sleep cycle drifting an hour later each day (ie. they would go to sleep an hour later each day without realizing it). But, they did concede that every human is different and there indeed people who don't need much sleep and others who actualy need a lot more sleep than is culturally possible (13-15 hours a day) to be at their best. Sadly, humans are WAY too flexible in their traits which means that there is no "one size fits all" approach. In the case of this drug however, I'd say that it will be revealed eventually just how detrimental it's effects are while simultaneously being denied by the pharmaceutical companies that produce it.
  • by duh P3rf3ss3r ( 967183 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:21PM (#16951450)
    "To die; to sleep; to sleep perchance to dream! Aye, there's the rub. For, in that sleep of death, what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil?"
  • Painkillers? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by setirw ( 854029 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:23PM (#16951504) Homepage
    The concept behind this drug seems akin to that behind painkillers: Eliminate the symptoms, not the problem. Sure, with a sufficient dose of painkillers, I could run while my foot is broken without feeling any ill effects, but that doesn't nullify the damage that would be caused by doing this.
  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:26PM (#16951568) Journal
    Schering-Plough has just annouced the first prescription drug on the market to eliminate the need to go to the can. The drug, "Excretefree", will allow people to work and play continuously without the need for potty breaks. The drug causes the anus and urethra to close tightly preventing waste products from leaving the body. There is no chance of accidental or voluntary release for 24 hrs.

    Side affects include internal rupture, massive swelling of the abdomen, oral (reversed) flatulence, abdominal pain, and epic post-medication trips to the bathroom.
  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:29PM (#16951662)
    between not feeling sleepy, and not needing sleep.

    There is quite fascinating research into this subject actually with old people. Research determined that it's not that they need less sleep in old age, but that they can't sleep more and it is speeding up the consequences of old age.

    So even if you don't feel sleepy, you need sleep and the effects would be quite devastating on a medium/long term. The problem with the drug industry is that it's more profitable for them to treat/mask sympthoms than to actually cure something. There are various anti-flu pills for example that only mask the sympthoms, so it will take a month or two to recover from a simple cold instead a week or two.
  • by stox ( 131684 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:31PM (#16951712) Homepage
    Have a newborn child. You won't be getting any sleep for a long time.
  • by inviolet ( 797804 ) <> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:44PM (#16951970) Journal

    So this pill will surely have some side-effects, and some of them will likely be negative. Fine.

    Now think about the value of your time. You get ~100 years here on Earth and that's all. You are wired to spend about a third of that time unconscious. An entire third of your life will be spent not doing or experiencing anything.

    How much effort do you expend just to shave ten minutes off your commute? Or to save three minutes standing in line?

    What, then, would 33 extra years be worth?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      An entire third of your life will be spent not doing or experiencing anything.

      I tend to work out problems in my sleep. I'm not shitting you.

      Besides phisical recovery my believe is that sleep is needed to defragment the brain. If only we had a better file system in our brain!
      • I tend to agree with you. However I find the same phenomenon occurs for me when I'm playing with my kids, playing Everquest, and reading articles that aren't in my field.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Actually, your experience is supported by evidence--people who concentrate on a problem right before going to sleep often figure out the solution to the problem after waking up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Absolutely 0. If my employers found out about all this extra time I'd just spend it all sitting in front of a screen anyway. At least this way I have a reason to come home every day.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Viol8 ( 599362 )
      "What, then, would 33 extra years be worth?"

      Not much if you end up spending them bouncing off padded walls in a sanatorium.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      The problem is that you are messing with biology without even considering potential negative consequences. There is no magic bullet in medicine. What if, instead of living to be 100, with this no-sleep pill, you die at 50 instead? Would you still think it is worthwhile?
  • by alexfeig ( 1030762 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:02PM (#16952326)
    I did sleep studies for a year. I was the guy that brought patients in, hooked up electrodes for brain activity, belts for breathing, electrodes on the legs for leg movement, etc -- then I sat in a small office staring at a computer screen for sometimes 12 hours on end watching them sleep making sure nothing went wrong, as well as making notes on potential sleep disorders. Apnea, Periodic Leg Movements, mainly. Obviously this job required that I work graveyards. After about 8 months on the job, my sleep schedule began to skip. I met my wife, I was trying to maintain a social life in the afternoons, etc. I started staying up when I got home until sometimes 2PM before going back to work at 8PM. Bad news. We obviously had a doctor on the staff, and he called us sleep techs into a room and we discussed the latest discoveries, etc. What came up was Modafinil. He mentioned that while he recommended Melatonin, Modafinil is approved for graveyard workers. Shortly thereafter I started taking Modafinil. I'll tell you, it works. Caffine is a terrible substitute. I used to drink so much coffee on top of caffine pills I OD'd more than once on it. Modafinil had 0 side effects (for me), other than the occasional slight bit of anxiety. It kept me awake, and it made me feel like I didn't even need sleep. When I'd get home, I could easily go to sleep because while it made you not FEEL like you didn't need to sleep, actually falling asleep wasn't difficult. When I would wake up I felt rested. I used Modafinil for about 4 months total -- and if I ever feel compelled to ruin my life with another graveyard shift, I'll be taking it up again. It's a marvellous drug.
  • by halo1982 ( 679554 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:32PM (#16953032) Homepage Journal
    I'm 24 now and has been prescribed amphetamines and various stimulants since I was six years old due to ADHD. First Ritalin, then as a teen I moved onto adderall, and then about two years ago I discovered this wonderful (italics for emphasis on sarcasm) drug called methamphetamine. I thought it was great, I could go 48-72 hours programming and get more work than I ever thought possible done and then crash for 8 hours, repeat. This wears on you after a few weeks and I'd start sleeping 14 hours, then 24, etc. Eventually I just kinda went crazy, lost my job, etc. At first I don't think it was the euphoria the drug induces that made it so hard to quit, it was the productivity it induced. I became addicted to getting 6 days of work done in 2, and then it all kind of went down hill from there. I've been clean 277 days and half of the time thats just because I cut off contact with all the people I could get it from. This is not something you want to mess with. While I think "meth is bad" is pretty universal, you would be surprised how many software developers I bought/sold to for the exact same reason as I. And I live in a smaller city, I'd think this would be much more rampant in major areas such as LA, New York, Seattle.
    Anyway the article this drug is about is Modafinil, also known as Provigil, a narcolepsy drug, which I've been prescribed for ADHD. And it does the same damn thing. Your body needs sleep, trust me I know, no matter what it is after two or three days your mind begins to break down. This drug certainly doesn't help with that, and if you RTFA (what are the chances of that?) the software developer in question mentions some of the things I pointed out. This worries me, greatly, because after going through a year of hell I'm now seeing articles like this discussing the potential for a "sleep-free" lifestyle, I have very little doubt in my mind that such a thing is not possible without great damage to the brain.

    I am not everyman and I do have an extremely addictive personality, but I've seen friends who don't (have addictive personalities) fall into the same trap as I did under the allusion of "work more, work faster, sleep is for wimps!"
    Anyway this is just my experience, but I thought I would share...

    • Try neurofeedback (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cheros ( 223479 )
      The problem with Ritalin (ie speed) is that it's an 'always on' drug, and ADHD appears to either lack or activity or overactivity of certain brain regions (both types of ADHD exist, which is why Ritalin doesn't always help). With neurofeedback you end up trainign those brain parts to perform as required (ie switch on and off as required) which is much more effective, and the results are permanent.

      The nice thing is that you'll know within one or two sessions if it works, no need for months to wait before yo
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Couple of things I thought I'd share. First, I've seen several of these articles, and I've also used modafinil on and off for almost three years. Sleep-free is an exaggeration. It can make a significant difference, but it does have side-effects (mostly headache and nausea) and it's not like your performance is quite normal, though it depends on what you're doing.

      For example, I've found that when I'm trapped at my desk and have to pull an all-nighter, it just doesn't keep me up all night. I think it's bec

  • by SlightlyMadman ( 161529 ) <slightlymadman&slightlymad,net> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:36PM (#16953100) Homepage
    What's interesting about this drug, is that it seems to do something very similar to what people have been doing with polyphasic sleeping [] for years now. Basically, you only "need" 2 hours of sleep, but it has to be almost 100% REM. If you can trick your body into denying itself all the rest of the "unnecessary" sleep cycles, you can get by with just those two.

    Polyphasic sleeping accomplishes this by limiting yourself to brief 15-20 minute naps, which are far more efficient than sleeping in large blocks because the brain can be trained to go directly into REM. Unfortunately, this training can take weeks or months (depending on how fastidious you are with your schedule), and the adjustment period can be extremely unpleasant.

    A drug like this could be very useful for those of us who do don't experience much physical exertion and sleep very little as it is anyways, but couldn't get past the adjustment hump of the polyphasic cycle [].
  • STOP THE HYPE (Score:3, Informative)

    by The MESMERIC ( 766636 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:14PM (#16958874) Homepage
    I am aware that Cephalon [] is spending a fortune on viral marketing.

    Without the hype induced placebo this drug is nothing more than a MDMA/Ephedra mix without the bad music.

    Stop buying into the hype.

    Fed up of seeing the same exaggerated claims appearing repeatedly, recycled specially in Slashdot.

    signed: An ex-modafinil user.
  • by viewtouch ( 1479 ) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @07:17PM (#16958908) Homepage Journal
    Sleep is NOT behavior that has evolved 'for some reason'. Sleep is a metabolic imperative. It is the 'normal' state of life. Being awake is a temporary state that is actually destructive to the metabolism of cell life. Being awake is necessary to move around and obtain food and to procreate, but being awake is not necessary for anything beyond this. After the food has been obtained and the procreative act is complete then the life form able to end the destructive metabolic state of 'being awake' and return to the constructive metabolic state, otherwise known as sleep. Asking the question why do we sleep is akin to asking the question why do we live. The answer is that we do. Asking the question why do we wake up is a question that actually makes sense and can be answered with ease.

    The only way to understand sleep / awake is to first understand anabolism / catabolism, balancing metabolic states. Sleep and Awake are balancing metabolic states, nothing more, nothing less. Just because we can exhibit 'behavior' when we are awake does NOT mean that sleep has anything to do the the notion of behavior. And just because we can measure brain activity during periods when we are awake or asleep does NOT mean that sleep is anything more than a metabolic state. Sleep is the Normal, Natural state of any living organism. Awake is just heightened activity and enhanced skills necessary to obtain food and procreate. Making too much of what being awake is is the source of all the confusion and misunderstanding about what sleep is.
  • As a user (Score:3, Informative)

    by runcible ( 306937 ) <runcible@he a d n e> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @01:14AM (#16961662)

    I have a diagnosed "sleep disorder", but the actual root cause is my job -- I run an OPS group, so insanely long and/or irregular hours are the norm ( guaranteed to have to work 48 hours straight about once every three months, and have to run on 2-3 hours of sleep pretty regularly ).

    To "manage" this, I have a perscription for Ambien ( just switched to CR, `cause it makes it easier to go back to sleep after having to wake up and work for two hours in the middle of the night ) and a perscription for Provigil ( 400 mg/dy ). The pharma is what lets me cope with this schedule when I need to, otherwise I'd be jello.

    I have nothing but good things to say about Provigil, it lets me do what I need to do without worrying about whether or not my body can keep up. Not to mention the newfound ability to drive from NYC to Miami with nothing but gas an bathroom breaks. However, there are a couple big things that get overrepresented, or that don't get considered:

    1) This stuff lets you operate for long periods of time without sleep and more-or-less without accruing sleep debt [], and it lets you function semi-normally on very little sleep. However, it does not keep extended periods of sleeplessness from taking a mental toll -- the longer you go without sleep the more your cognitive ability and short-term memory suffer, modafinil doesn't change that. So yeah, I can run 40 hours straight no problem taking 400 mg of this shit every 12-14 hours, but you get gradually dumber over that span even though you can stay alert and responsive. By the end of a 40-hour run I'm functioning at low-normal to low intelligence, my short term memory is basically nonexistant, and I'm extremely the point where sometimes I trail off in the middle of a sentence. So if you do anything other than long-haul trucking, your work will suffer as time goes on.

    2) Potential for psychological dependency is very high among the subset of the population likely to use it for its "lifestyle" effects. It improves your concentration by orders of magnitude and lets you run at that high level for quite a while before secondary fatigue effects (see above) start taking a bite out of your performance. For people who derive large portions of their self-worth from their mental abilities, this shit is anabolic steroids -- won't hook you physically, but it makes you *way* better at what you do. And you start to miss it if it isn't there.

    3) It gives you headaches -- not all the time, but often enough. Since I started regular use, I get headaches at least 30% more than I used to. Also it can make you really nauseous -- although it also seems to have an appetite supressant effect, and an empty stomach combined with coffee consumption and smoking more heavily than normal could explain the nausea. Also, it makes your urine smell really bad, which has a nice synergistic thing with the nausea...

  • by tttonyyy ( 726776 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @08:21AM (#16963368) Homepage Journal
    When I was at uni, I left an OpenGL software project too late before deadline. I underestimated the massive amount of work it would take. It was due in Friday, I realised Sunday evening. I worked late into the night, until it was so late, I figured I might as well not bother sleeping. So I didn't. I stayed up for five days coding solidly, including throughout the night (coffee fuelled), stopping just to fulfil basic body functions. The project got done, and it looked great.

    But, I learnt a few things.

    My body followed the daily cycles despite not sleeping. Each day I would be at my least attentive between 4am-8am. Then, by mid-day I'd be feeling a lot more awake and alert. I did not hallucinate in any way, but I did feel like crap pretty much all the time.

    In hindsight, because I waas so tired during the days, I'd have probably got exactly the same amount of work done if I'd followed the normal cycles and slept during the nights. It definitely doesn't do you any favours to skimp on the sleep.

    And on the fifth day, after I handed it in, I slept very well. :) (But it did take another week to fully recover from my sleep depravation).

    Do not try this at home kids.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard