Trainee police officer Clare Southern was £97,000 (€140,000) richer today after winning TV sleep deprivation show Shattered.
The exhausted 19-year-old, from Dorset, scooped the Channel 4 show’s prize money after being deprived of sleep for much of the past week.
In a final “sleep off” challenge yesterday afternoon, the three remaining contestants, Jonathan, Clare and Chris, climbed into bed in darkened rooms - knowing the last one to nod off would be declared the winner.
At 9pm they were woken up by the sound of a klaxon, unaware of who had fought off the urge to sleep the longest.
The bleary-eyed trio were then joined by friends and family in an adjoining studio as they awaited the results.
First to be eliminated was psychiatrist Jonathan Wood, who fell asleep after 29 minutes, followed only a quarter of a second later by cocky student Chris Wandel, 22.
Clare, who lasted 90 minutes longer than her rivals, was shocked she had won the endurance challenge after feeling “exhausted” throughout the final day.
She said: “I didn’t think I would last a second as soon as I hit the bed, but for some reason I just seemed to wake up and towards the very end I was dying for the toilet, which wasn’t good.
“I was singing to myself and started playing blinking games with my eyes. Will Young’s Light My Fire kept coming in my head … I owe him one.
“I just tried to conserve my energy and if I had any lows to dig myself out of them as quickly as possible.”
Clare said she would be spending her prize money on family and friends.
The three were expected to stay awake for about two hours after the show, before catching up on lost sleep, a Channel 4 spokeswoman said.
But there were to be no marathon lie-ins for the weary trio. They were being woken up at 10am today, on the recommendation of doctors.
The series started last Sunday with 10 contestants competing to stay awake in a “laboratory” in Wapping, east London – with the worst performing contestant being voted off every night.
The group lost £1,000 (€1,400) from the £100,000 (€144,000) jackpot whenever anyone fell asleep for more than 10 seconds – increasing the pressure on each participant to keep awake.
But the reality TV series, made by Big Brother producers Endemol, quickly attracted controversy after it was was accused of endangering the contestants’ health.
Several members of the group complained of hallucinations, exhaustion and paranoia during the week and media watchdog Ofcom is investigating the show after receiving a number of complaints from viewers.
A spokesman for Ofcom said: “We have had 11 complaints about the programme and we are looking into it.”
The spokesman said he could not go into the details of the complaints until the investigation had drawn conclusions, but said they related to “the nature of the programme”.
Over the past six days, Shattered contestants have been put through a series of endurance tests, including watching paint dry for one hour.
Although billed as the ultimate exercise in sleep deprivation, Shattered competitors have been allowed occasional catnaps agreed by the producers.
Psychologists have criticised the show and accused programme makers of exploiting participants.
Dr Gary Wood, social psychologist at the University of Birmingham, saidi: “Any programme which gets to the stage it causes people to hallucinate would seem to me a worrying sign this has gone past the boundaries of entertainment.
“If we are making people uncomfortable and altering their state of consciousness, it is very dangerous.
“It is humiliation TV and very concerning that what we are doing is putting people’s health at risk and causing them psychological harm.”