Sleep Deprivation and Hallucinations - SailNet Community
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Sleep Deprivation and Hallucinations

How common are hallucinations at sea after spending long hours on the helm?


Mark Matthews responds:

If wakefulness in someone is prolonged enough, and especially if anxiety is present, hallucinations are likely to occur. Since everyone’s mental makeup differs, and each responds to a lack of sleep differently, there’s no unique answer. Stay up long enough and you’ll start seeing things. Observations suggest that fleeting hallucinations typically begin after two or three days without sleep, and that after 100 to 200 sleepless hours a progressive personality disorganization will develop, marked by periods of hallucinosis.

Perhaps one of the most famous hallucinations in sailing was chronicled by Joshua Slocum in his Sailing Alone Around the World in which the captain of Christopher Columbus's Pinta appeared and steered Slocum’s vessel for three days while he suffered from a fever.


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