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Health, Sports & Psychology

Lab Rats: Sleep diary

Updated Saturday 1st July 2006

Read Mike Leahy and Zeron Gibson's sleep diary, as part of the BBC/OU's programme website for Lab Rats

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test tubes Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

A Bad Night
Mike: I started things badly by getting drunk the night before the shoot. I finally got to bed at four in the morning. This was stupid, because I was meant to be starting at eight, and knew that it might be me that would be facing a sleep ban for the next few days. As the crew began 'rigging' the cameras before seven in the morning I only got three hours' sleep and started the programme with a terrible hangover. Bummer!

Zeron: My first day in the house got off to a bad start. I was visiting friends in Norwich and planned to arrive at the house about 1am, to climb into bed and wake up all fresh faced and wide-eyed. However on the late night drive back I had one of those micro-sleeps at the wheel of my car and mounted the side kerb on the motorway and wrote off two tyres and wheels! Here I am about to start a show about sleep deprivation and I'm stuck on the motorway with not much chance of making it to the house for the early morning filming. I had a spare but still needed another wheel. Nothing to do but call the AA and wait.

It made me realise how important sleep is and how dangerous it is to drive without enough sleep. The AA eventually arrived and transported me and my car home, where I phoned a taxi and eventually arrived in the house at 5:30 in the morning. I carried everything up to my room and climbed into bed just after 6am. After just an hour of sleep I was rudely awoken by the crew at 7am. So between Mike and me there was no choice: Mike had had more sleep (just!), so he was the one to do the deprivation.

0 hours: The Start
Mike: I take time = 0 as being seven o'clock on the first morning. I wake up with a hangover. I'm totally wasted. If it had been a normal day I would have had a pint of water and gone straight back to bed, but I have no chance. I've got a full day of filming ahead of me, and 60 hours without sleep to go. What a berk. After being awake for half an hour a hammer drill starts up next door. It doesn't help my headache, and will make filming difficult.

Zeron: Mike doesn't know it yet but I've got out of the challenge. We are ordered up to the edit suite (a small upstairs bedroom transformed into the video suite) where I hand Mike the challenge. Is he pleased? I doubt it, but it's hard to tell - he's too hung over for me to tell! And he's blaming the producer, Steve, for keeping him up till the late hours and making him drink too much. Big baby!

1 hour
Zeron: So begins what is to be a series of blood and other tests on our body. My tests are supposed to show normal while Mike's slowly deteriorate. Blood tests mean one thing - needles! I have a dislike of the damn things and now I'm told I will have to have a blood test three times a goddamn day! And we are to shave twice a day? "Mmmm, considering that I am not that hairy you are gonna be a-counting more dead skin cells than hair," I informed Dr Natheera. But she had saved the best 'till last: Mike had to insert an anal probe to measure his core body temperature for the whole of the 60 hours. I laughed and I laughed so much - this was turning out to be more fun than I expected.

 Mike: At first I thought that the production crew were joking. An anal probe? No chance! My arse is for expelling stuff, not the other way round. Of course, they weren't joking and what particularly worried me - on several levels - is that there were no shortages of volunteers to put it in place. I decided to insert it myself, however. So, armed with some Vaseline and an innocent looking length of grey cable, I paid a visit to the loo. It wasn't painless, but after a bit of messing around seemed to be in place OK. To make sure I taped the emerging wire to my butt cheek and refrained from farting. The thing that really worried me was going to the toilet though because I would have to take out the probe and replace it with a new one each time.

So what was this all for? To monitor my core body temperature which, in theory, would go down as I got more tired. The temperature of our skin may change regularly, however, even in hot or cold weather our core body temperature always remains tightly regulated.

Zeron: Our fitness instructor arrives, Jackie Porgeous (although this does not feature in the final cut). Her purpose is to put Mike through a set of gruelling physical test to show how well his body copes at the start of the deprivation, to compared with how difficult he finds it at the end. I like this bit because I had to mirror Mike in all the exercises. I love working out and would be in my element. I even got to dazzle Mike, the camera crew and Jackie with some of my Whu Shu skills. Mike did well in this test but was still suffering from a hangover from his late night drinking session. His high alcohol blood content slowed him down more than anything else - Mike is an extremely fit guy!

Mike's driving test Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

6 hours: Driving and Anal Probe
Mike: It's one in the afternoon, and I have driven to the Millennium Dome to do some driving tests around cones. It looks tedious. I'd rather rag a car around a track, but here all I have to do is a drive through some cones as if I am parking in a garage, then do a kind of slalom with an emergency stop in it, and finally do a sort of wiggle / wobble test at high speed. Before I start I ask my instructor from Drive to Survive, a company that teaches people to drive, to give me an alcohol test as he has a little pocket tester. Thankfully I'm OK. The test turns out to be fun and I score 10/10 for driving ability. I'm not sure if this is correct, but I'm grateful none the less.

Zeron: We tripped over to the very impressive Millennium Dome to put Mike through a series of driving tests. On the way Mike confides in me that the anal probe is very uncomfortable. Although that is irritating and bothering him I could see the glint in his eyes that was saying 'this driving test is going to be major league fun!' Mike loves driving challenges.

Mike does the test and not only impresses the hell out of me he astounds the instructor who gives him a score of 10/10, which puts Mike up with some of the elite drivers in this country. In short, Mike is a natural behind the wheel of a car.

Mike: The driving test has a story behind it that I'd tried to keep quiet about at the time. It's all about that bloody anal probe. At first it seemed OK and I'm sure it would be relatively comfortable for a bed-ridden patient, but I'd been out and about. Not withstanding the occasional twinge, everything went OK for the first morning, although I had to be careful about sitting down or bending down too quickly. In fact, from seven in the morning until well into the afternoon it all seemed to be fine. The little black box that recorded my temperature was discreet and the wire leading into my boxer shorts tucked invisibly away. Even the anal probe seemed to be staying in place.

One test of my performance when tired was to drive a Ford Focus with an instructor around some simulated real life driving situations. This involved driving like a loon through a number of cones. I couldn't see that this was going to pose a problem - after all I was sitting down - however, as always in TV world even things as mundane as getting in a car have to be repeated several times to be filmed from different angles and as I got into drivers seat and slid under the steering wheel, I felt the tape on my butt cheek pull free and an unwelcome sensation in my anal sphincter. I wasn't going to replace the anal probe next to my poor instructor in the middle of a car park so I got out of the car, tucked the wire between my butt cheeks and hoped for the best.

Zeron: We head back to the house for an afternoon chill out. Once back there I start to worry that I wasn't going to be with Mike 24/7 to stop him falling asleep. I ask Dr Nathreera how would we know if Mike was cheating and catching some zz's on the sly - while, say, on the loo? She'd thought of that. And so Mike was presented with a motion detector wrist watch! I don't think Mike was impressed with me for bringing that subject up. He is given the watch and it is set to go off if he remains motionless for up thirty seconds. Sorry, Mike (hee hee hee)!

10 hours: Game show
Zeron: I am asked to host the test in the form of a games show. Mike's intelligence is to be pitted against those of a child prodigy. I like the kid, who tells me that he is the Maths Olympiad champion. For sure he's got a very quick brain but hey, he's just a kid who needs help opening a tight jar or milk carton just like any other. Mike doesn't have kids so here he was sitting across from a little monster and something had to give. Mike's motion watch was to build up enough a lot of kinetic energy as Mike repeatedly held back from throttling the genius kid!

Mike: The brainy kid was a bit of a challenge - he's really bright and very competitive.

Zeron: The test included a Stroop test where you say the colour or word printed on a card, a basic memory test (counting backwards odd or even numbers without missing a beat), a live wire test (navigating a contorted length of wire with a hoop without setting the alarm off) and tongue twisters. I eventually declared Mike the winner, but it was a tough call and definitely by a slim margin.

Mike: That night my anal probe secret was found out when the production team looked at the trace formed on a graph from the data that was recorded in the black box. Until 3pm my body temperature had been 37.2 degrees C. Then, at the very moment that the probe was pulled free, the temperature recorded plunged to 28 and stayed there. Despite repeated requests I refused to reinsert it because of the discomfort caused by the probe and the embarrassment factor.

Later, when I met some junior doctors at Smithfield market, I was told that forcing me to wear the probe under circumstances other than lying still in bed was sadistic to say the least. Although the production team kicked up about my lack of commitment to the project I felt vindicated by the doctors' comments. It's a shame as the information would have interesting, but hey - it's my arse so it's my call!

Mike and Zeron share some sushi Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

12 hours: Sushi
Mike: It's seven o'clock in the evening and I'm actually feeling a bit better tonight - although compared to my hangover this morning it would be hard to feel worse - and am going to go out for a meal with Zeron. The meal is in a sushi bar, which I don't like the sound of. A runner takes us there, but we're not supposed to eat until the crew turns up. It doesn't stop the runner pigging out, and Zeron and I watch with watering mouths as he works his way around the various dishes.

Zeron: Mike wasn't impressed by the food at first. But as we sat there watching others eat he tuned into the raw fish and rice. By the time the crew arrived we were suitably ravenous. The horrible thing, though, was that by that time, all the best food that had been passed under our admiring noses had gone. Still it was a nice meal in the end.

16 hours: Pimps and Coppers
Zeron: After the sushi bar Mike and I headed off to a late night bar in the West End. On the way we had to pass through Soho. We are 'miked up' up as our producer Steve wanted to hear our conversation as we walked. At one stage, we were asked to stop and wait for a cue then continue walking toward the distant camera. As we stood in the wet looking highly suspicious, a figure emerged from the shadow and confronted us in broad London slang. He wanted to know why we were hanging around on his patch. He thought we were making a play for his night girls and wanted to take over his territory. All three of us looked at each other waiting for somebody to make the next move. Then Steve gave the hand signal we were waiting for. I spoke into my collar mic, "Roger that!", and our assailant vanished! He must have thought he was challenging two plain clothed officers.

Mike: After the club, I was on my own. I have nowhere to kip and had to walk the streets instead. I develop a weird feeling of envy for the down and outs. They may not have a warm or comfortable bed, but at least they can sleep. I don't much like large cities at the best of times, let alone wandering around during the small hours, with no sleep.

Zeron: I arrive, alone, back at the house. A hot milk warms me up. I do a video dairy to camera. And begin to feel it for Mike. The weather out there is crap! I climb into a warm bed, read and eventually drift off.

18 hours
Mike: It's one in the morning. The next stop is an all night snooker club in Kings Cross. Not my choice of entertainment. Sports are OK, but games never turned me on. The place was doing a good trade and there were plenty of aggressive drunks around. The rest of the clientele seem to be lonely old men and the employees of Chinese takeaways with a compulsion to gamble. Thankfully our next stops were in places where I felt more at home - a supermarket and a bagel bar. I used to work the nightshift at my local supermarket in Oxfordshire when funding myself through university.

Mike and Zeron with their physical trainer - Jackie Porgeous Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

24 hours: Down the Market
Mike: It's seven in the morning and I've been up all night. I guess it would be OK if I hadn't started with a hangover, but I feel sick - very sick. I also feel like I ate something that really didn't agree with me in the sushi bar and feel very nauseous. My last trip of the night was to see a couple of junior doctors at Smithfield Market. They were cool, and told me about the kind of shifts they worked and how it could affect their body clock. I drank coffee while they had a 6am pint of Guinness with their dinner/breakfast or whatever you call it. We then filmed a piece to camera in the market where the crew had to walk backwards, through the early morning hustle and bustle, so they were facing me with the camera as I walked towards them. Difficult stuff! Next stop: our flat and more blood tests. My arm is already sore and bruised.

25 hours: Rude awakening
Zeron: Mike crashes into my bedroom at 8am and wakes me from a really good dream that I can't write about here (put it this way, there were foxy ladies). He tells me through bleary eyes what he has been up to all night. I shower and meet him downstairs for breakfast by which time the "day" camera crew have arrived and set up (we had a "day" crew and a "night" crew - only Mike had to stay awake all through this). Mike has been in and out of the toilet a few times with a dodgy stomach. We shave again for the doctor and she takes more of our blood. Our arms are decidedly sore by now and she is taking pity on us - but not much!

30 hours: Fitness
Mike: It's one in the afternoon on day two and I'm feeling more nauseous than I would have thought possible without the aid of alcohol. In a few minutes, I have to go through a PE lesson with our own personal trainer, Jackie Porgeous. I couldn't believe that missing one full night's sleep would make me feel this ill. Perhaps it's a two-day hangover. Perhaps it's because I had trouble with the sushi. I can't believe that it's just sleep deprivation because I go to 'Homelands' each year to party and have driven through many sleepless nights as a support mechanic on classic rallies with only minor sleep-related problems, but to be honest I've always managed to get the odd five minute nap.

Zeron: Jackie arrives ready to go and makes training fun. I really feel for Mike as we workout. The idea is to compare what we did the day before and see if there's any loss in general fitness. From the word go, I had real concerns for my buddy. He was looking very grey so I made sure he drank a lot of water. In the end it was obvious that today's training session was going to come to a premature end.

Our producer never included this section in the show because he wasn't sure if it was lack of sleep or something do to with the food that Mike had eaten the night before so the science wasn't clear.

36 hours: Game Show Rematch
Mike: Tonight looks as if it will be boring. The PE session was OK, but I'm already under par after one night without sleep. Zeron encourages me and helps me through. I felt like keeling over. I face 'clever boy' again and it doesn't make me feel any better.

Zeron: More of the same in the brain alert test. I want to see if Mike has lost some of his sharpness now that he has gone a whole night without sleep. He does well, but I can see some frustration building between him and the kid - who wants to jump around and rub Mike's face in it every time he gets it right and Mike doesn't. I can see tears are about to flow so I declare the second round a dead heat and hustle the kid away from Mike before he explodes.

Mike: All I have to do today is walk about in the rain. As we try to film, people appear from nowhere. A typical example is when we were filming with a taxi office in the background. As soon as the drivers notice us they come out and start sweeping the pavement in the back of our shot. We have to walk away and try another place. I'm getting more tired and can't be bothered with all the hassle. Normally I would have lost my temper but I just don't have the energy.

Zeron: I offer to go out with the runner and buy a curry for our evening meal. Typical London - we get stuck in traffic, but eventually turn up with a fantastic Indian meal. Mike (being Mike) finishes his even though he complains throughout about how hot it is!

Mike tries to keep up in the gameshow rematch with genius boy Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

42 hours: A boring night
Mike: Tonight, I am to be left to my own devices. After a short walk, I chill out in the kitchen. Night-time TV is terrible, as is the radio. I'm bored shitless and am doing anything I can to stop myself going to sleep. I'm wired from all the Redbull I've been drinking, but dog tired at the same time. I know that I'm being watched on a TV monitor and can't give up, but I would give anything for a doze.

48 hours
Mike: I stayed awake OK, but am well bored. I'm glad that I got through the night. I did set off the alarm watch once, which meant that I stayed still for too long. To be honest, I was on the point of going to sleep. The guys are now around for breakfast. We have a huge crew on this shoot and it's good to have people around again.

54 hours: Danny Baker then Driving
Mike: It's about lunchtime and I am really struggling. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it was a bad morning. I met up for a radio interview with Danny Baker. For a start, I have now got really bad guts. I blame the sushi, but it could be because of my lack of sleep - the extra hot curry probably didn't help either. This meant that I had to visit the bog a number of times before the interview, and at the end of the interview I had to sprint to the loo again.

In the interview Danny Baker was dismissive. He reckons he has been up for at least sixty hours with his kids. Of course he is lying, because he would have definitely been able to have forty winks at some point. All I want is five minutes' rest. Later in the day we visit a bed shop. They are teasing me by letting me lie on some cool beds without letting me sleep. It's divine justice when the steel band starts up outside, spoiling any attempt to get clear sound during the filming. Then it's time to get back behind the wheel.

Zeron: This time I drive Mike to the Dome since it would be crazy to let him loose on the road. In the safety of the Dome car park, Mike's driving ability is again put to the test and his motor skills prove to about half of what they had been to begin with. The instructors said that Mike was showing the same signs through lack of sleep that a motorist well over the alcoholic limit would be displaying behind the wheel. This was very scary...

dancing girls Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team

60 hours: Dancing Girls
Mike: I was meant to stay awake for sixty hours and Steve (the series producer) has just told me that I have to film until ten at night. That makes sixty-three hours. I've been dying to go to bed and had set my heart on turning in at seven in the evening. Now the goal posts have moved and I'm angry. I feel completely deflated and have a good shout at him. My language is pretty bad. I am so ready for bed. The shoot continues to go badly for me. I make a grave error of judgment by agreeing to take part in a scene with some dancing girls - I'm no prude, but this isn't my thing and I don't want to piss my wife off.

Zeron: When I was told about the final scene with the dancing girls I didn't have a problem with it. It was a scientific experiment aimed to prove a loss of sexual response after lack of sleep. And how would we do that? Read a porno magazine and admit whether we were turned on or not, boring TV and rubbish evidence. So the scene had to be sexed up. In the end we made ground breaking TV.

In Mike's defence, he had just got married and was really worried about upsetting his wife. The test we did is routinely carried out on sex offenders (with highly graphic sexual images), it measures beyond a doubt any anti-social sexual tendencies they have.

Mike: The scene was seedy. I did agree to do it when it was first put to me, but that was a mistake. My new wife, Liz, will not be at all happy and what really pisses me off is that I don't even enjoy the experience, even if I have to smile for the camera. I can see that I'm going to be in a lot of trouble, and that Liz's feelings will be hurt - all for the programme to go out with a big bang. Bloody TV people.

Zeron: Our two live dancers were more for the viewers than Mike and me. I didn't think the scene was seedy. Far from it - we had the producer giving directions, a camera crew filming, an array of monitor cameras and the scientist in the kitchen with us. It was pretty impressive that we managed to show any reaction at all with so much distraction around us. More down to the sensitivity of the equipment.

My girlfriend arrived just as the two dancer were about to shake their booty. She told me she spent most of the time laughing at my obvious predicament. Either I end up looking lame or I get turned on by another woman - either way I can't win!

66 hours: Party
Mike: It's gone midnight and I should have gone to bed a couple of hours ago, but how can I? For a start, the others are having a party. There are twenty of them, including directors, researchers, camera crews, on and off-screen experts, all drinking and celebrating the end of the shoot in the kitchen.

Zeron: I'm impressed with Mike's stamina. The show is in the can (dancing girls gone), the booze is out and Mike has found his second wind. Everybody is telling him to go to bed but he can see and smell beer. And there is food to be eaten and while that's available, Mike won't sleep.

Mike: How do they expect me to sleep while they are making such a noise downstairs? On top of that I'm not going to miss out on free beer. But the main reason I don't turn in is that each time I lie down my head begins to spin almost as if I'm drunk. I have almost developed a fear of lying down. Still, bed beckons. It's only a matter of time before I turn in and it's great not to be forced to stay awake.

Zeron: Eventually the party fades, Mike is now running on his reserves. I don't think I could have made it. Over 60 hours without sleep doing some pretty menial - and some extraordinary - things. Anybody who thinks that is was easy should try it. And make sure you include a lot of dead time in the 60 hours. Time spent doing nothing is the killer. I was bored for many hours and could catch forty winks. Mike stayed wake for the full duration. He had no choice. Another achievement in the life of a Lab Rat. Nice one Mike - I'm dead impressed.

69 hours
Mike: It's bedtime - 4am. Thank God! Looks like I'll get another three-hour night because we have to clear out of the house up by ten and it needs a serious clean. I've been awake for nearly seventy hours and will have had six hours' sleep in five days (that's six hours' sleep in over one hundred). Cool!


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