Controversial Channel 4 series Shattered saw stars deprived of sleep for days

Controversial Channel 4 series Shattered saw stars deprived of sleep for days

One of the most controversial reality series of all time aired on Channel 4 in the early 2000s.

Hosted by Dermot O’Leary, Shattered saw a team of 10 contestants tasked with going without sleep for seven days and nights while being constantly monitored by cameras.

If any contestant closed their eyes for more than 10 seconds, £1,000 was deducted from the eye-watering £100,000 prize pot.

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While undergoing the painful challenge, the show’s cast members took part in a series of challenges – from memory tests to trying to stay awake while counting sheep and hearing bedtime stories.

Each day, one contestant was voted out – although one player, Lucy, quit of her own accord.

Daily Star takes a look into the controversial series and the effect it had on players.


Whilst in the house, the 10 contestants underwent a variety of challenges.

The first of these were performance tests, which tested mental agility, perception of time, memory and reactions.

Those with the biggest drop in performance amid their lack of sleep would face off in a live challenge that night, with the loser evicted.

Along with the performance tests, players would undergo a You Snooze You Lose test, selected by their housemates for the endurance trial.

Players underwent a relaxing facial, watched paint dry and listened to a lecture they’d already heard – all with the challenge of trying to stay awake.

On the final day, the players faced their biggest challenge yet – they were sent to bed.

The last to fall asleep won the competition, but would lose by speaking, turning away from the camera or closing their eyes for more than 10 seconds.

Clare was eventually deemed the winner after a whopping 178 hours of sleep deprivation – and desperately needing the bathroom while tucked up in bed.

Hallucinations and delusions

Throughout the competition, which measured adverse effects of lack of sleep, the participants began to hallucinate or became hostile and irrational.

One contestant, Chris, even became deluded that he was the Prime Minister of Australia and a star of hit Channel 5 soap Neighbours.

Other stars were convinced housemates were stealing their clothes, while Claire became convinced she had once arm wrestled Irish boxer Joey Rouine.

After 75 hours without sleep, Lucy became the first and only player to quit the show after speaking with the studio’s resident psychiatrist.

‘Didn’t recover for a month’

One star has since opened up about his experiences on the unaired pilot show.

On a Reddit thread discussing game show experiences, user Mr_Drew_P claimed: “The worst was a pilot to a sleep deprivation show called Shattered. I went almost a week without sleeping.

"I won the pilot and got given a grand, but a week later a girl won the actual TV show which showed footage of me during the first few days – and the girl that won got a hundred grand."

He added: “It took about a month to get over the sleep deprivation.

"I turned into a zombie and my friends said it was like I was constantly stoned. I would not recommend it."

Ofcom fury

Ofcom was forced to investigate Shattered after 11 complaints came in from the general public.

Channel 4 was accused of putting contestants’ health at risk and “making light of those who have been tortured through the use of sleep deprivation by corrupt regimes”, Campaign Live reported.

However, the broadcasting watchdog later cleared the show.

A spokesperson for Channel 4 said at the time that the network “have gone to great lengths to ensure their health and safety."

Slammed by healthcare professionals

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The public weren’t the only ones furious about Shattered.

The programme also came under fire from various healthcare professionals, with social psychologist Dr Gary Wood telling the BBC at the time: “It is humiliation TV and very concerning that what we are doing is putting people's health at risk and causing them psychological harm."

Neil Douglas, professor of respiratory and sleep medicine at Edinburgh University, added: “This is not a scientific experiment. It is voyeurism of people in distress to no benefit of anybody.”

Even Liberal Democrats culture spokesman Don Foster weighed in, explaining: “This is reality TV gone mad, reminiscent of the degrading American dance marathons of the Depression”.

He accused the show of encouraging “voyeurism of pain”.


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