[ This post was originally posted on February 22, 2017 at ValleyMagazinePSU.com.]
This past weekend, Penn Staters raised $10,045,478.44 for the kids! Though feet were sore and eyes were droopy, the celebration ensued.
Though the weekend is over, Valley still has some questions. One question in particular is why THON is 46 hours.
As it turns out, THON wasn’t always the 46 hours it is today. In 2006, it was decided by Graham Spanier, then Penn State’s president, that THON 2007 would shrink two hours from its original 48. Story has it that in order for THON to be hosted at the Bryce Jordan Center, the last two hours — from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday — had to be sacrificed in order to accommodate any Penn State men’s basketball games, which often take place there on Sundays at 6 p.m.
Some of you youngins may be wondering moving from where? THON was originally hosted in Rec Hall. However, as THON grew tremendously, it seemed as though Rec Hall and its accommodations shrunk twice as fast. The appeal of moving from Rec Hall to the Bryce Jordan Center lied within its improved facilities, including extra bathrooms, kitchens, and climate control.
The whole thing seems cut and dry really. However, the matter of time and the resumption of other activities in the Bryce Jordan Center turned out to be one of a few deciding factors in the decision to shorten THON.
THON 2007 Overall Chairman Mike Funk supported the shrink, claiming that dancer health and safety risks were also a big contributor to the decision.
“The shortened schedule will allow participating students to have more recovery time, such as a few more hours off their feet and more time to sleep Sunday night,” said Funk.
This was an incentive from the academic side of things. They thought that a little more rest would help those involved miss less classes the Monday following THON weekend. Little did we know that those “extra two hours” off our feet and in our beds would make a world of a difference on our minds.
A variety of studies have shown that 24 hours without sleep more or less makes you loopy. Scientists estimate that more than 147 different cognitive basics in the human body are affected after losing just 24 hours of sleep. Most of these cognitive basics have to do with alertness, specifically your ability to focus on one stimuli at a time. Which explains why your brain is in the same condition after 24 hours of not sleeping as it would be having a 0.10 BAC.
Now, these are just the minor leagues. THON is 46 hours long, which is nearly double what it takes to make your brain tipsy. And just like with tipsy people, your brain starts to lose control of what is or isn’t appropriate to say out loud. After 36 hours without sleep, your brain can’t put sentences together correctly or use visual memory as effectively.
Regardless, your body has hundreds of thousands of other working parts that also start to become affected after 36 hours. One study shows that your cardiovascular system becomes erratic after 39 hours, meaning your heart rate increases and there are bigger variations in blood pressure. Essentially, what this boils down to is that no matter how much you eat or drink, your heart cannot stabilize itself.
All of this stuff is going on in the bodies of those at THON who are either dancing, on long committee shifts, or have chosen to take a whack at it in the stands. If you’re keeping track, this is still seven hours shy of the THON total reveal. What’s coming after 48 hours of sleep deprivation is precisely why we should be counting our lucky stars that the shrink in the hours of THON has stuck.
After 48 hours without sleep, your very existence starts to be at risk and the cute little side effects you were giggling about above begin to potentially become permanent. Your immune system is temporarily shot. White blood cells need sleep to survive and after 48 hours without it, your white blood cell count drops dramatically. So, not only can your body not respond to infections, it also can’t respond to danger. Your cognitive ability to react to impending doom is nearly gone after 48 hours.
Now, while we’re on the topic of infections, it’s important to highlight that the reason for standing and being awake for this amount of time in honor of THON is to feel the pain of the kids going through cancer treatment. They’re also not able to fight infections and experience, at times, very extreme side effects.Which is why sleep deprivation in honor of THON is justifiable to this point in time.
However, past the 48-hour mark, you are not only flirting with danger but you are downright crawling into bed with it on the first date. Parts of your brain begin to shut down and it’s completely normal to hallucinate, experience paranoia, and involuntary microsleeps that can end with you falling onto something potentially harmful. So after a dancer leaves the BJC, they should head right to bed.
THON is an amazing cause and these warning are not meant in any way to derail the incredible things THON and Penn Staters across the world have accomplished. But if you’re going to participate in THON, stay woke. And by woke, Valley means educated about what can and will happen to your body under the pressure of extreme sleep deprivation.