The 6/24 rule: A review and proposal for an international standard of a minimum of six hours of continuous sleep in detention settings


  • Pau Pérez-Sales



sleep deprivation, 6/24 x 3 rule


Sleep deprivation is one of the most prevalent and widely used methods of psychological torture. Its effects on the body are without direct physical aggression and include significant somatic and psychological impacts and suffering. It is used in multiple coercive environments as a way, among other purposes, of degradation, debilitation, punishment or before and during the interrogation of detainees. In this specific context, it produces cognitive, emotional and physical exhaustion, with the aim of obtaining submission or compliance, and ultimately information or confession (Pérez-Sales, 2017; Reynolds & Banks, 2010; Sveaass, 2008).

There is no universally accepted legal definition of what should be considered sleep deprivation in the context of torture.  There are however converging positions from the legal and jurisprudential, and especially medical and psychiatric fields that allow for establishing sufficiently clear recommendations for the international community to take a reasoned stance. Within the framework of torture as defined in the United Nations Convention (UNCAT), intentionally forcing a person to have less than 6 hours of continuous, restful sleep must be considered a form of degrading treatment that could amount to cruel and inhuman treatment. We also suggest that when this daily sleep deprivation is intentionally prolonged in a sustained manner for three days or more, it should be considered as a form of torture in itself, irrespective of other coexisting or cumulative elements that may aggravate the condition.



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How to Cite

Pérez-Sales, P. (2019). The 6/24 rule: A review and proposal for an international standard of a minimum of six hours of continuous sleep in detention settings. Torture Journal, 29(2), 1–10.