Jackson may be the only human ever to go two months without REM — Rapid Eye Movement — sleep, which is vital to keep the brain and body alive. The 60 nights of propofol infusions Dr. Conrad Murray said he gave Jackson to treat his insomnia is something a sleep expert says no one had ever undergone.
Propofol disrupts the normal sleep cycle and offers no REM sleep, yet it leaves a patient feeling refreshed as if they had experienced genuine sleep, according to Dr. Charles Czeisler, a Harvard Medical School sleep expert testifying at the wrongful death trial of concert promoter AEG LIve.
If the singer had not died on June 25, 2009, of an overdose of the surgical anesthetic, the lack of REM sleep may have soon taken his life anyway, according to an opinion by Czeisler.
Lab rats die after five weeks of getting no REM sleep, he said. It was never tried on a human until Dr. Murray gave Michael Jackson nightly propofol infusions for two months.
Czeisler — who serves as a sleep consultant to NASA, the CIA and the Rolling Stones — testified Thursday that the “drug induced coma” induced by propofol leaves a patient with the same refreshed feeling of a good sleep, but without the benefits that genuine sleep delivers in repairing brain cells and the body.
“It would be like eating some sort of cellulose pellets instead of dinner,” he said. “Your stomach would be full and you would not be hungry, but it would be zero calories and not fulfill any of your nutrition needs.”
Depriving someone of REM sleep for a long period of time makes them paranoid, anxiety-filled, depressed, unable to learn, distracted, and sloppy, Czeisler testified. They lose their balance and appetite, while their physical reflexes get 10 times slower and their emotional responses 10 times stronger, he said.
Those symptoms are strikingly similar to descriptions of Jackson in his last weeks as described in e-mails from show producers and testimony by witnesses in the trial.
Jackson’s mother and children are suing AEG Live, contending the company is liable in his death because it hired, retained or supervised Dr. Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. They argue the promoter pressured Dr. Murray to get Jackson to rehearsals, while failing to get Jackson help despite numerous red flags warning that he was in trouble.
AEG Live lawyers contend it was Jackson who chose, hired and supervised Murray and their executives had no way of knowing about the dangerous propofol treatments administered in the privacy of Jackson’s rented mansion.