Sleepless in a War Zone

Florence Cardinal Health Guide
  • At Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba, Mohammed Jawad, a prisoner has charged that he was subjected to sleep deprivation to persuade the prisoner to aid in his questioning. He was subjected to bright lights, loud music and noise, and moved from cell to cell over 100 times in two weeks.


    U.S. authorities have used sleep disruption to help with interrogations, but Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld claims: "In no sense is it torture, in no sense is it coercion, and in no sense is it such mistreatment that charges should be dropped."


    Jawad's lawyer, Air Force Major David Frakt argues that he believes the sleep deprivation was done for sport or for punishment. He claimed that abnormal sleep deprivation is a form of mental torture.

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    This story reminded me of an episode of The X-Files starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, except the sleep deprivation was used for a different effect.


    The X-Files story was entitled "Sleepless" and involved the results of severe sleep deprivation on a group of soldiers fighting in Vietnam. In the story, an operation on the brain removed the need and the ability to sleep. The purpose was to produce soldiers who were more aggressive and fearless. Also, as they didn't sleep, they were available for duty twenty-four hours a day.


    The experiment worked well beyond its planned perimeters. The soldiers became killing machines, aggressive, irritable and unstoppable. The entire squad went AWOL and wiped out a whole Vietnamese village - men, women and children.


    The story is mostly about the remaining participants, men who have been without sleep, not twenty-four hours, but twenty-four years. Of course, as X-File episodes will, it continued into the realm of the paranormal with mind control and other supernatural elements.


    But, the part that interested me, the part that should be of interest to all who suffer from the sleep disorders, was the effects of sleep deprivation. Although a bit exaggerated for the X-Files, this is indeed what happens to those deprived of sleep. They become irritable, aggressive, thought patterns are disrupted and they are apt to do things they wouldn't do if they were not suffering from sleep deprivation.


    Everybody needs sufficient sleep each day to revive brain cells and keep bodily systems functioning effectively. Without sufficient sleep, there is a gradual breakdown, not only of mental abilities, but also of health in general.


    If a person is sleep deprived, he or she is more susceptible to illnesses and the invasion of germs and viruses. Because the mind is not functioning at full power, there is a risk of making mistakes and of causing accidents.


    Getting less than 6 hours a night can affect coordination, reaction time and judgment. A recent survey revealed that one-half of all American adults admit to driving drowsy, and one in five actually fell asleep behind the wheel.


    Sleep is as important in sustaining life as food and water and almost as important as the air we breathe. If you're not getting the sleep your mind and body requires, it's time you did something to remedy the situation

Published On: June 30, 2008