The Sleep Experiment Tribute To A Clockwork Orange

Illustration for article titled The Sleep Experiment Tribute To iA Clockwork Orange/i

Professor Ian Oswald had a long and distinguished career in sleep research, discovering what happened, mentally and physically, while we sleep. He contributed much to society. But he garnered a little bit of infamy for one particular experiment...


It was early in his career, and it wasn't cruel, but it does resemble a scene in A Clockwork Orange. Oswald took volunteers and taped their eyelids open. Just above their eyes he placed strobe lights, so they could never look away from the flashing, and he placed speakers next to their ears and played loud sounds. Then he told them to try and fall asleep.

Amazingly, they did. It took them a while, but when they got tired, they passed out. The subjects themselves reported that they dozed, and Osward wrote that they seemed to lose consciousness for certain periods. The subjects were young and healthy, which might have helped. Oswald also thought that the experiment apparatus might have actually aided sleep. Because the noise and lights were meaningless and constant, they might have formed a sort of monotonous white noise that helped the subjects doze.


Oswald was only 31 when he published his findings on this experiment, and soon moved on from such basic experiments. He started looking at what happened inside the head during sleep, not whether or not people can sleep Clockwork Orange style. And I think everyone was better for that.

[Via How to Make a Tornado, Herald Scotland]

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