Sleep deprivation does not work: Epidemiology, impacts and outcomes of incidental and systematic sleep deprivation in a sample of Palestinian detainees


  • Mahmud Sehwail Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC)
  • Pau Pérez-Sales SiR[a] Center
  • Khader M.A Rasras Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC)
  • Wisam Sehwail Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC)
  • Alba Guasch Community Action Group (GAC)
  • Andrea Galan Community Action Group (GAC) & SiR[a] Center



torture, sleep deprivation, detention facilities


Background: Sleep deprivation (SD) is a method used in the context of interrogations aimed to obtain submission, information and confessions. Its impact on producing false confessions has been documented. Even information obtained is true, it will be unreliable as it cannot be separated with what has been suggested by interrogators. The use of SD has been documented in the interrogation of detainees in Israel and two patterns can be identified: one incidental due to the conditions of detention set out here as secondary sleep deprivation (SSD), and one systematic, intentional and linked to continued interrogation, set out here as primary sleep deprivation (PSD). This paper aims to study the prevalence of PSD and SSD in a sample of Palestinian detainees, compare its usage before and after the 1999 Israeli Supreme Court judgment, and compare the impacts and outcomes of SD. Method: The study included a sample of 600 ex-detainees who answered questions related to psychological and coercive methods, subjective psychological impact, clinical measures, psychosocial measures, and medical impact. Classification of SD was built taking into consideration the items related to SD and interrogation. Results: Most detainees reported SSD with around 13% reporting PSD. Prevalence of PSD has been found larger among people over 25 years old who were detained before 1999. Related to the psychological suffering from the overall detention environment including SD, detainees with PSD and SSD reported significantly higher acute and chronic suffering. It has also been found that detainees with PSD reported long term family, social and physical impacts. Regarding the outcome of SD, the number of signed confessions with either true or false statements increases with SD, but in this case, this did not lead neither to a significantly higher number of convictions nor longer sentences. Conclusion: Sleep deprivation in the framework of interrogations seems ineffective.


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How to Cite

Sehwail, M., Pérez-Sales, P., Rasras, K. M., Sehwail, W., Guasch, A., & Galan, A. (2019). Sleep deprivation does not work: Epidemiology, impacts and outcomes of incidental and systematic sleep deprivation in a sample of Palestinian detainees. Torture Journal, 29(2), 56–69.