He showed the same increasing moodiness and paranoia that Gardner did. On his last day, a neurologist was called to examine Tripp before sending him home. When Tripp looked up at this doctor in his dark, old-fashioned suit, he had the delusion that the doctor was really an undertaker who was about to bury him alive. Overtaken with fear, he let loose a scream and bolted for the door. Half-dressed, Tripp ran down the hall with doctors and psychologists in pursuit. He could no longer distinguish the difference between reality and nightmare.
This same pattern of mental deterioration that mimicks psychotic symptoms appears in several more systematic studies of sleep deprivation and extreme sleep debt. Thus, prolonged sleep deprivation does lead to the appearance of serious mental symptoms. In addition, even moderate amounts of sleep deprivation can lead to losses in mental efficiency that can threaten public and personal safety.
(According to a 1995 report by the U.S. Department of Transportation, 100,000 sleep-related traffic accidents claim some 1,500 American lives each year. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research has reported that sleep-related accidents, and sleep disorders which impact work productivity, cost the American economy between $100 and $150 billion each year-Ed.)