I am writing a story about a girl who travels to another world when she sleeps on earth, and travels back to earth when sleeping in the other world. Her mind never sleeps. When she is asleep on either world, her mind is nearly empty and her body rests, but her mind doesn't rest and doesn't need to.

While on the other planet, she is executed. This leaves her brain-dead on earth for about 2 hours, but her heart and other functions remain. She has a nightmare, of sorts, in which she finds her own dead body from the other world on the ground. It terrifies her. When she eventually wakes up (after two hours), she has a terrible phobia of sleeping.

Her mind is generally fine for 3 weeks, save the trauma of the murder; but her body is no longer resting.

In this case, what clinical side effects could be expected during this 3-week insomnia period?

Again, it is only her body which required sleep.
The effects also don't have to be 100% realistic, but should manifest physically so the doctors would see them, and recommend sleep. The conditions will kill her after 3 weeks (this is the crisis).
What reasonable diagnoses would be offered?

  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean real world stuff like medical experimentation on sleep deprivation, or suggestions that fit the mood of the story to that point? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Oct 18, 2021 at 22:55
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ This seems like more of a medical question than worldbuilding. I'm also a little confused about separating the mental effects of sleep and the physical - the mind and body are not separable like that and if your character can separate the two, then the rules governing their sleep may not conform to human biology. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Oct 18, 2021 at 22:56
  • $\begingroup$ @WillK I think a little of both she needs to find out that she needs to sleep or she dies. So she is forced to sleep. $\endgroup$
    – intro
    Commented Oct 18, 2021 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ @WillK The side affects don't have to be 100% realist just possible for doctors to see and try to help with. $\endgroup$
    – intro
    Commented Oct 18, 2021 at 22:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ search engines are your friend. Try "extreme sleep deprivation". See what starts happening after 36 hours. Most probable, after a week of total sleep deprivation, death follows. Partial sleep deprivation may not be immediately fatal. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 18, 2021 at 23:09

4 Answers 4


Severe myocarditis.

It is an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by bacterial or viral infection that can lead to heart failure, due to cardiac arrest or DCM (Dilated cardiomyopathy), even in children.

It fits very well, because main physical consequences of sleep deprivation are immunosuppression and elevated risk of cardiovascular diseases (mostly long-term ones, but 3 weeks without sleep should be enough time to see more immediate consequences, especially for a child/teenager).

There is a lot of room for escalation to keep tension, while symptoms are mundane and easy to imagine. In no particular order: chest pains, shortness of breath, painfully swollen legs, thumping and/or irregular heartbeat, fever, dizziness and/or fainting, not even mentioning symptoms of bacterial/viral infection that due to immunosuppression could spread beyond the heart. It's very debilitating, but slow enough and relatively easy to recover from (she might need a heart transplant though) Also you can blame very fast progression of this illness on genetics. But i would suggest doing some more research on this, beyond what i wrote.

I hope i helped.


Well from what I gathered from the image you're trying to capture is she has the ability to control her body and fluctuate to different realities consciously while leaving one body for the other, at necessary rest times. Assuming from this alone I believe the two bodies live in two different time zones, 8hrs-10hrs rest. Assuming rest means shutoff she has the ability to shut the body off while her conscious switch to the other body to start living the other life. If one body died and while the other rest she sees the other dead body, well wouldn't that mean you don't need the body? Astral project the conscious in the same world and now she can be double the trouble.


She's Dead, Jim.

The person you're describing has a physical manifestation and a physiology quite different from those of a human. Humans are a soul~spirit~body composite comprising a union of single unique non-corporeal soul & physical body. The person you're describing comprises two distinct bodies and a single mind. You don't comment on any other aspects of her being, but it is clear from the description of her physical sleep state, her mind is nearly empty and her body rests, but her mind doesn't rest and doesn't need to, that she is in fact a unitary being of a different order than us. We could describe her as having, from our perspective here on Earth, a "here body" and a "yonder body" in & between which her mind cycles between active & resting or perhaps present & absent states.

Going solely on the information given: I'd argue that if her yonder body dies, she's dead. Or soon will be. The nature of the person you've described is such that the trauma of killing half of her physical nature would result in the death of the entire person.


The current Guinness world record is 11 days and 4 hours held by Randy Gardner. It’s unlikely to be broken as Guinness World Records no longer takes new records to discourage others from attempting such a dangerous feat.

It’s also likely the most extensively documented one. Stanford's Dr. William Dement documented the entire study.

Randy did an interview on NPR

Amount other interesting tidbits.

  • Randy had people purposefully keeping him awake. He doubts it could be done by yourself.

  • He suffers from insomnia which he believes was caused by staying awake for under 2 weeks.

  • By the end, he had essentially no short term memory and couldn't do basic math in his head.

  • Sleep depravation caused personality changes. They (mostly) went back to normal, but not immediately.

  • Heart attacks increase 24% around daylight savings time, which is 1 hour of sleep lost on one day.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .