The book Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams, which I’ve mentioned earlier here, has this little historical tidbit on a sleep deprivation experiment:
Some of the earliest experiments on extreme sleep deprivation were performed in the late nineteenth century by a Russian scientist called Marie de Manaceine. She deprived puppies of sleep by keeping them constantly active. They all died within four or five days, despite every effort to keep them alive. The younger the puppy, the more rapidly it succumbed. Marie de Menaceine also noticed a progressive decline in body temperature of the sleep-deprived animals, a phenomenon that is now known to be a standard symptom of prolonged sleep deprivation in humans and other species. She concluded that sleep is even more crucial for survival than food.
For God’s sake, puppies?