The weapon of sleep: from thievery to war

The weapon of sleep: from thievery to war

In the late 1990s, Camigliano, a small village near Lucca (Italy), became famous for terms like “letargia” (lethargy) and “SRI” (“Stupor Ricorrente Idiopatico”, or “Recurring Idiopathic Stupor“). The story was covered in the news with the name “The sleeping court“, after the name of the Hamlet Corte Mei. After several investigations, ministerial inspections, theories, warnings and worries, a trial concluded that the cause of the sudden deep sleep attacks of Corte Mei were, in fact, only a deception.  According to a judge’s ruling, a woman began to sneak psychiatric drugs in food and drinks to be hired as a caregiver for the elderly residents of the hamlet.

There is also a huge number of stories regarding induced sleep in the V century B.C.  Clearchus wrote about (“induced lethargy”) and hypnosis used for thievery to remove a victim’s organs and sell them on the black market. However, sleep has also been used as a weapon, even during war…

Sleep deprivation (or forced vigil) is an ancient torture system used to interrogate enemies. Soldiers need to sleep.  Some soldiers consider a lack of sleep as an obstacle to the success of the campaign and a danger while in battle.  It has been said that the military has conducted numerous sleep experiments on soldiers, which culminated in the recent commercialization of the “sleep-canceling pill“.  The pill keeps soldiers awake for 96 hours.

However, despite the reassurance of anti-sleep medication producers, sleep deprivation can cause serious damage, even hallucinations. The most disturbing (and less credible) story circulating on this subject comes from Russia. It seems that, in the 1940s a group of scientists serving the army imprisoned a few political activists in a room and kept them awake for 2 weeks by administering them stimulating gas. The result was a nightmare…

Last but not least, we have to consider the effects of war on sleep. A group of scientists have theorized a “Gulf War Illness” that also includes several types of sleeping disorders.

We only have one suggestion for you: love your sleep, do not wage war upon it… nor to anybody. Enjoy sleep, not war 😉

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