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我們能堅持多長時間不睡覺?

How long can we stay awake?
我們能堅持多長時間不睡覺?

It’s surprising how we spend our lives. Reach your 78th birthday and according to some back-of-the-envelope calculations, you will have spent nine of those years watching television, four years driving a car, 92 days on the toilet, and 48 days having sex.

我們度過人生的方式令人頗感意外。根據一項粗略統計,等到你78歲生日時,你已經花了整整9年看電視,4年開汽車,92天上廁所,48天做愛。

But when it comes to time-consuming activities, there’s one that sits head and shoulders above them all. Live to 78, and you may have spent around 25 years asleep. In an effort to claw back some of that time it’s reasonable to ask: how long can we stay awake – and what are the consequences of going without sleep?

但提到耗費時間的活動,有一項卻無可匹敵。等到你78歲那年,可能已經花了大約25年來睡覺。為了彌補這些看似有些浪費時間的活動,人們不禁會問:我們能堅持多長時間不睡覺?不睡覺會有什么后果?
 

Any healthy individual planning to find out through personal experimentation will find it tough going. "The drive to sleep is so strong it will supersede the drive to eat," says Erin Hanlon, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago's Sleep, Metabolism and Health Centre. "Your brain will just go to sleep, despite all of your conscious efforts to keep it at bay."

任何一個想要通過親身實驗來找出答案的健康人,都會發現這是一段極其痛苦的經歷。“睡眠的欲望如此強烈,甚至超過了進食的欲望。”芝加哥大學睡眠、新陳代謝和健康中心助理教授艾琳·翰隆(Erin Hanlon)說,“盡管你調動所有的意識來抗拒睡眠,但大腦卻已經昏昏欲睡。”

Why sleep at all?

人為什么睡覺?


Exactly why the urge to sleep is so strong remains a mystery. "The exact function of sleep is still to be elucidated," says Hanlon. She adds, however, that there is something about sleep that seems to “reset” systems in our bodies. What’s more, studies have shown that routine, adequate sleep promotes healing, immune function, proper metabolism, and much more – which is maybe why it feels good to arise refreshed after a serious snooze.

人類的睡眠欲望為何如此強烈?這至今是一個未解之謎。“睡眠的具體機制仍然有待破解。”翰隆說。但她補充道,睡覺就像“重新啟動”了我們身體的系統一樣。另有研究顯示,充足而有規律的睡眠還能促進病情康復、提高免疫功能、加強新陳代謝——或許正因如此,每當我們美美地睡上一覺,起床之后總會感覺神清氣爽,精力充沛。
 

On the flip side, insufficient slumber has been linked to greater risks of diabetes, heart issues, obesity, depression and other maladies. To avoid those latter outcomes, we are wracked with uncomfortable sensations when we burn the midnight oil: we lack energy, feel groggy, and find that our heavy eyelids press on aching eyes. As we continue to fight off sleep, our ability to concentrate and form short-term memories slackens.

另一方面,睡眠不足往往與糖尿病、心臟病、肥胖、抑郁和其他疾病的患病風險增加存在關聯。為了避免后一種結果,每當我們熬夜時都會感覺渾身不舒服:精力不足、頭昏眼花、眼皮打架。如果繼續硬扛著不睡,就很難集中精力,甚至會出現短暫的記憶力下降。

If we ignore all these side effects and stay up for days on end, our minds become unhinged. We get moody, paranoid, and see things that aren’t really there. "People start to hallucinate and go a bit crazy," says Atul Malhotra, the Director of Sleep Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. (Long-haul truckers have an evocative term for this hallucinatory phenomenon: "seeing the black dog". When a shadowy apparition appears on the roadway, so the advice goes, it's time to pull the lorry over.)

如果你對這些不良影響視而不見,仍然堅持熬夜工作,思維就會錯亂。我們會變得喜怒無常、妄想偏執,甚至會看到根本不存在的東西。“人們開始產生幻覺,變得有些瘋狂。”加州大學圣迭戈分校睡眠醫學系主任阿圖爾·馬爾霍特拉(Atul Malhotra)說。(對于這種幻覺,長途卡車司機有一句行話:“看見黑狗。”當路上出現這樣的黑影時,就該停車休息了。)

Many studies have documented the body's parallel decline during sleep deprivation. Stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol increase in the blood, in turn elevating blood pressure. Meanwhile, heart rhythms get out of whack and the immune system falters, says Malhotra. Sleep-deprived people accordingly feel anxious and are likelier to come down with an illness.

很多研究都記錄了人在睡眠被剝奪的情況下出現的各種不良反應。馬爾霍特拉表示,腎上腺素和皮質醇等應激激素在血液中的含量將會增加,導致血壓升高。與此同時,心率也會紊亂,免疫系統同樣會失效。因此,被剝奪睡眠的人會感覺焦慮,患病風險也會加大。

Still, all the havoc wreaked by a bout of insomnia or a few all-nighters does not seem permanent, disappearing after solid shuteye. "If there's any damage, it's reversible," says Jerome Siegel, a professor at the Centre for Sleep Research at the University of California, Los Angeles.

不過,連夜的失眠或熬夜造成的各種破壞似乎都是暫時的。只要美美地睡上一覺,這些癥狀都會消失。“即使有什么傷害,也是完全可以修復的。”加州大學洛杉磯分校睡眠研究中心教授杰洛米·賽格爾(Jerome Siegel)說。

When the curtain never falls

永不入眠


But what if sleep never can come? A rare genetic disease called Fatal Familial Insomnia provides one of the starkest pictures of the consequences of extreme sleeplessness.

但如果永遠不睡覺會怎么樣?有一種名為致死性家族性失眠癥(Fatal Familial Insomnia)的遺傳疾病,讓我們得以了解這種極端情況下最嚴酷的后果。

Only about 40 families worldwide have FFI in their gene pools. A single defective gene causes proteins in the nervous system to misfold into "prions" that lose their normal functionality. "Prions are funny-shaped proteins that screw these people up," says Malhotra. The prions clump in neural tissue, killing it and forming Swiss cheese-like holes in the brain (which is exactly what happens in the best-known human prion disorder, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease). One area that is particularly badly affected in people with FFI is the thalamus, a deep brain region that controls sleep. Hence the debilitating insomnia.

全世界大約只有40個家庭的基因庫中包含這種致病基因。他們有一個存在缺陷的基因導致神經系統中的蛋白質錯誤地收斂成“朊病毒”(prion),并失去正常的功能。“朊病毒是一種形狀奇特的蛋白質,它會令這些人發瘋。”馬爾霍特拉說。朊病毒聚集在神經組織中,將其殺死,并在大腦中形成瑞士硬干酪一樣的小孔(這正是最著名的人類朊病毒疾病Creutzfeldt-Jakob氏綜合征的病理作用)。致死性家族性失眠癥的患者丘腦部位會受到嚴重破壞,這個位于大腦深處的區域專門負責控制睡眠,因此會導致失眠的發生。

An afflicted individual suddenly goes days on end without rest and develops weird symptoms such as pinpoint pupils and drenching sweats. After a few weeks, the FFI victim slips into a sort of pre-sleep twilight. He or she appears to be sleepwalking and exhibits those jerky, involuntary muscle movements we sometimes have when falling asleep. Weight loss and dementia follow, and eventually, death.

突然間連續數日無法入睡會給人帶來巨大的折磨,產生一些古怪的病癥,例如瞳孔縮小、汗流不止。幾周后,致死性家族性失眠癥患者會陷入昏昏欲睡的狀態,似乎是在夢游,還會發生普通人有時會在熟睡狀態下出現的抽搐和痙攣。之后伴隨體重下降和癡呆癥,最終死亡。

Still, sleeplessness per se is not thought to be the lethal agent, because FFI leads to widespread brain damage. "I don't think it is sleep loss that kills these individuals," says Siegel. Similarly, the oft-used torture tactic of depriving human prisoners of sleep is not known to have summarily caused anyone to die (although they will still suffer horribly).

不過,研究人員認為失眠本身并非真正的致命原因,因為致死性家族性失眠癥會導致大腦遭受大范圍損傷。“我不認為這些人是因為失眠而死的。”賽格爾說。類似地,嚴刑拷打中常用的睡眠剝奪也不會導致任何人死亡(盡管他們仍會遭受悲慘的遭遇)。

Along these lines, animal sleep deprivation experiments provide more evidence that a lack of sleep in its own right might not be deadly, but what prompts it may well be.

沿著這個思路思考下去,動物的睡眠剝奪實驗可以提供更多的證據,讓我們明白缺乏睡眠本身或許不會致死,而促成睡眠剝奪的手段反而可能引發死亡。

Studies by Allan Rechtschaffen at the University of Chicago in the 1980s involved placing rats on discs above a tray of water. Whenever the rat tried dozing off, as revealed by changes in measured brain waves, the disc would rotate and a wall would shove the rat towards the water, startling it back awake.

芝加哥大學的阿蘭·雷切斯查芬(Allan Rechtschaffen)在20世紀80年代進行的研究,就將大鼠放在了一個盤子上,下面則是一盆水??茖W家通過腦電波監測大鼠的困意,每當它們打瞌睡時,盤子都會旋轉,導致大鼠被墻壁推入水中,使之保持清醒。

All rats died after about a month of this treatment, though for unclear reasons. Most likely, it was the stress of being awoken – on average a "thousand times a day" says Siegel – that did the rats in, wearing down their bodily systems. Among other symptoms, the rats exhibited body temperature dysregulation and lost weight despite an increased appetite.

遭受了大約1個月的折磨后,所有的大鼠都死了,但死因并不明確。最有可能的原因是長期被迫保持清醒引發的緊張情緒——賽格爾表示,平均每只大鼠每天會被叫醒“數千次”——導致大鼠的身體機能衰退。這些大鼠出現了很多病癥,包括體溫異常,以及在食欲增加的情況下體重不增反降。

"That’s the problem in interpreting sleep studies in humans and animals: You can't thoroughly deprive a person or an animal of sleep without their cooperation and not impose a fair amount of stress," says Siegel. If death occurs, "the question is, 'is it the stress or the sleep loss?' It's not an easy distinction."

“這正是解讀人類和動物睡眠實驗時面臨的問題:如果人或動物不配合,你無法在不給其施加壓力的情況下剝奪它們的睡眠。”賽格爾說。如果發生死亡,“問題就變成了:‘究竟是因為緊張還是因為失眠?’這很難區分。”

Wake up! Wake up!

起床!起床!


All of this may well put most people off exploring the limits of our capacity to go without sleep, but the question remains: how long can we stay awake? The most widely cited record for voluntarily staving off sleep belongs to Randy Gardner, at the time a 17-year-old high school student in San Diego, California. For a science fair project in 1964, Gardner did not hit the hay for 264 hours straight, or just over 11 days, according to scientists who monitored him towards the end of his vigil. Numerous other, less credible accounts abound, including one of a British woman in 1977 who won a competition to continuously rock in a rocking chair (presumably by a landslide) by doing so for 18 days.

正因如此,多數人可能都無法探索人類究竟能夠連續多長時間不睡覺,但我們還是不禁要問:人類究竟能堅持多長時間不睡覺?最廣為人知的自愿睡眠剝奪記錄屬于蘭迪·加德納(Randy Gardner),他創造紀錄時只有17歲,還在加州圣迭戈一所高中就讀。根據當時負責監督他的科學家回憶,1964年,加德納參加一個科學展覽項目時創造了連續264小時(也就是超過11天)不睡覺的記錄。還有很多人提到了其他一些可信度較低的紀錄,包括一位英國女性1977年在連續搖椅競賽中獲勝,整整堅持了18天(估計她的這個成績遙遙領先其他選手)。

Overall, the jury is out on just how long a human could ever stay awake, but perhaps that's a good thing. Acknowledging the injury people might cause to themselves through intentional sleep deprivation, the Guinness Book of Records stopped keeping track of this particular superlative last decade.

總之,人類究竟能堅持多長時間不睡覺至今沒有明確答案,但這或許是件好事。在意識到刻意剝奪睡眠可能對身體構成損傷后,《吉尼斯世界紀錄》也在過去10年停止追蹤了這項記錄。
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