I already asked this on Worldbuilding Stack, but they told me to ask here. It is for a RPG campaign.

Are there any options that an evil person could use to keep someone awake against their will? Like a gas, an injection, or any substance or simple practice that wouldn't allow them to sleep even if they wanted to?

If any costs are involved, I would like to know the most cheap and viable ways to achieve this.

Furthermore, if there is a way for the victim to be be unaware of why they can't sleep, I would like to know that too.

The technology context is 80's decade and the purpose is a that a organization want to make some experiments about the consequences of sleep privation, especially if there is a point when allucinations begin.

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    $\begingroup$ Well there is hydrogen sulfide whose smell of rotten eggs would likely to keep one awake. $\endgroup$ – Nilay Ghosh Feb 5 at 5:58
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    $\begingroup$ I understand this is a role-playing game (not rocket-propelled grenade) question, and I think it really could be modified to fit in World Building SE. If I were you I'd try again to ask it there, and spend some time formulating the question to fit the site, adding specific details, etc. It's a bit of a weird site and some users are less cordial than others, but I'd still give it a try. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 5 at 6:02
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you want to know this? Are you one of these evil persons ? $\endgroup$ – Maurice Feb 5 at 10:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Maurice I think me asking this is suspicious, so here is my topic on Worldbuilding: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/167459/… As I said, I'm writing a RPG campaing. $\endgroup$ – Mycroft Feb 5 at 11:26

A bit of a primer first: The body's sleep cycle is regulated by Melatonin, which is a hormone produced by the pineal gland. You can read more about this hormone here but in summary, for a biochemical solution to keeping someone awake, you would want to either catalyse the breakdown of melatonin in the body or inhibit melatonin secretion by the pineal gland.

The latter option has been tried: tests have been conducted and show that Serotonin N-acetyltransferase is the enzyme responsible for the diurnal rhythm of melatonin production in the pineal gland of animals and humans. The compound N-bromoacetyltryptamine was shown to be a potent inhibitor of this enzyme in vitro and in a pineal cell culture assay. Note that the first paper regarding this was published in 1998 and may not fit into your timeframe.

As for a cheaper solution, one way is to just keep the person in a room where the light is on 24x7. This is a common torture trick used by several nations as it offsets the circadian rhythm and tricks the body into believing that it is morning all the time.


P.S: I believe any worldbuilding user with a bit of background in chemistry/biology would have been able to answer your query on that SE.

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  • $\begingroup$ Warning! Not for migraine patients, you'd necessarily cause severe headache and eventually make them fall asleep by light exposure...Mission failed! $\endgroup$ – Sir Arthur7 Feb 5 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ Jokes apart, this was a well researched answer.Thanks, got to learn a lot of new things :) $\endgroup$ – Sir Arthur7 Feb 5 at 14:13

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