Al Herpin

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Background

Al Herpin was known as the "Man Who Never Slept."

Born in 1853 in, Trenton, New Jersey, Al Herpin claimed to have developed a rare case of insomnia, whereby he could not sleep. The supposed cause is unknown, although it may be linked to his mother suffering a major injury a few days prior to his birth.

In the late 1940s, Al Herpin's claim attracted the attention of several medical professionals, who marched to his door one day. They found no bed, or other sleep-related furniture, but only a rocking chair. Herpin claimed that after a long day's work, he would rest in his rocking chair reading the newspaper until dawn, then return to work. He was in good health, and had a constant level of high awareness, defying all scientific understanding of the necessity for sleep.

A piece in the New York Times on February 29, 1904 reported that:

Albert Herpin, born in France in 1862 and for fifteen years a hostler in the employ of Freeholder Walter Phares of this city, declares that he has not slept a wink during the past ten years. Notwithstanding this, he is in perfect health, and does not seem to suffer any discomfort from his remarkable condition.

Al Herpin died on January 3, 1947 at the age of 94. His death saw another New York Times story more skeptical of his claim:

Death came today for Alfred E. Herpin, a recluse who lived on the outskirts of the city and insisted that he never slept. He was 94 years old and, when questioned concerning his claim of "sleeplessness", maintained that he never actually dozed but merely "rested".

No other person with total insomnia has lived for such a long period of time. It was likely that he died for other reasons, not sleep deprivation, as his insomnia did not seem to have any effect on his health.

References

  • Hasn't Slept in Ten Years; So Trenton Hostler Avers and Physicians Corroborate Him, New York Times, February 29, 1904
  • Man Who Said He Never Slept Dies at 94; New Jersey Doctors Are Skeptical of Claim, New York Times, January 4, 1947.

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