Paul Kern, the Man Who Didn’t Sleep for 40 Years

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Sleep deprivation. Parents of newborn babies know the trauma all too well, and some military forces and covert government agencies use the deprivation of sleep as a tool for torture. While most of us can go for a few days without sleeping, when we do many of our functional abilities become extremely disadvantaged. Some people have even likened it to severe intoxication. So could you imagine absolutely no sleep at all or a week or two? How about a month or more. If you tied, your body would eventually force t=you to sleep, you’d have no choice. One man however could not sleep, even if he tried. That man was Hungarian Paul Kern, who had no sleep for 40 years. That’s right, for 40 years, Paul Kern couldn’t sleep, and became the subject of both folk lore and song. So how did this happen?

You may have read already about the Vietnamese man who has claimed that he has not slept since 1973. In that case his claims have not been verified by independent medical professionals. There is however another medically recorded incident where a man has gone decades without sleep. Paul Kern was a Hungarian soldier who fought during World War I. While he was serving on the front line he was shot in the head by a Russian soldier. The bullet removed part of his frontal lobe. After he was shot he was taken to Lemberg hospital, and once he woke from his injury he never slept again. A professor at the university of Budapest treated Kern for his condition, but was never able to determine the reason for his abnormality.

Paul Kern died in 1955, some 40 years after he suffered the gunshot wound that changed his life forever. He was the basis for a song by the American folk-pop band The Dimes who wrote a song called “Paul Kern Can’t Sleep”.


Bonus Fact:

Paul Kern isn’t the only person to have suffered this weird condition. A farmer from Vietnam has claimed that he has not slept since 1973. He said he came down with a fever one day and since then he hasn’t been able to sleep. Doctors have checked him over and said he suffers from sever insomnia. They also say his health is otherwise fine. One thing they have not done is check out his claim to see if he is authentic.

Paul Kern


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