Life Style

How Long Can You Go Without Sleep?

Sound sleep is an integral part of our healthy lifestyle. People often compromise on their sleep schedules, owing to a fast-paced lifestyle. While 8-10 hours of sleep is considered essential, some people experiment with their strength on how long they can go without sleep.

So far, the longest record was created by a 17-year old High-school girl in 1965 by waking for 264 hours in total (about 11 days) for a science fair. Several other people didn’t sleep for 8-10 days at a stretch. None of them developed any serious medical condition or psychiatric problem.

But there was an adverse effect in their brain functionality with lower perception, concentration, and motivation. After one to two nights of recovery sleep, all these people could get back to their normal levels. 

When you go sleepless for 3-4 days, you start experiencing hallucinations. Dying from sleep deprivation is a rare phenomenon, but prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to:

  • Paranoia
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Irritability

What happens when you stay awake for 24 hours?

According to studies, an alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent equates to 24-hour wakefulness. 

It is common among people to skip a night’s sleep to do away with any urgent task, preparation for an exam, or taking care of a sick child. Staying up all night is an unpleasant experience for many. But no significant impact is noticed on the health of people who stay awake for 24 hours. 

Here are some common effects of going sleepless for 24 hours:

  • Memory deficits
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Vision and hearing impairments
  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Increased risk of auto accidents
  • Altered perceptions
  • Impaired decision making

Following a sleep schedule calculator helps you recover faster after a sleep deprivation of 24 hours.

What happens when you stay awake for 36 hours?

Staying awake for 36 hours has more severe effects than waking up for 24 hours. Several hormones like human growth, cortisol, and insulin are dependent on your regular sleep cycles. 

Bringing irregularity to your sleep cycles by staying awake for odd 24 hours or 36 hours adversely impact several body functions as follows:

  • Stress level
  • Appetite
  • Temperature
  • Mood
  • Metabolism 

Going 36 hours of sleeplessness causes:

  • Inflexible reasoning
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Decreased motivation
  • Speech impairments such as intonation or poor word choice
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Risky decisions 

What happens after 48 hours of sleep deprivation?

After 48 hours of sleep deprivation, people struggle to awake further. They often take ‘microsleep’ involuntarily. Microsleep lasts up to 30 seconds, where the brain reaches a sleep-like condition. Hence it is light sleep. You often feel disoriented and confused after such microsleeps. 

Your immune system also gets adversely affected by now. Increased levels of inflammatory markers also start circulating in your body. With sleep deprivation, the natural killer cell activity also decreases, which leads to higher chances of illness. These cells are highly responsive to the bacteria and viruses that cause immediate health threats.

What if sleep deprivation becomes chronic?

Sleep deprivation stretched over 2-3 days is uncommon. However, owing to the hectic schedules, people often sleep less than recommended sleep cycles leading to sleep deprivation. When this type of sleep deprivation continuous in the longer run, it becomes chronic,

Hence, when you don’t have enough sleep regularly, it leads to chronic partial sleep deprivation. It involves both short term as well as long term health risks such as:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing alertness
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Increased risk of ailment and injury
  • Unstable mood
  • Loss of concentration
  • Deteriorating performance

The prolonged sleep deprivation increases the risk of:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart stroke
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental disorder

How does sleep deprivation impact your appetite?

Prolonged sleep deprivation not only increases your appetite it also alters your food preferences. A person with irregular sleep cycles is likely to choose carb-rich and sugar-rich foods to satiate cravings and get rid of mood disorders. 

As your body starts conserving energy due to prolonged sleep deprivation, choosing unhealthy foods leads to quick food gain. Eating lean protein-rich food such as nuts, butter, tofu, etc., may help you to an extent. But if you eat fatty protein foods like cheese or streak, you will feel sleepy.

How much sleep does one need to stay healthy?

Depending on your lifestyle, age, and several other factors, the amount of sleep per night required varies. While newborns generally sleep 14-17 hours a day, adults sleep for 7-9 hours is considered adequate. School-age children are recommended to sleep for 9-12 hours; sleeping for 8-10 hours for teens is enough. 

Studies also reveal that women tend to sleep slightly longer than men. 

Can prolonged sleep deprivation kill?

In certain circumstances, prolonged sleep deprivation can be fatal.

As it is associated with the higher risks of car accidents, sleep-deprived drivers are the top reason for most road accidents worldwide. 

Fatal familial insomnia (FFI) is a sporadic sleep disorder that can result in death. It is caused due to the mutation in the prion protein (PRPN) gene in the brain region, which is responsible for regulating sleep. 

Some of the symptoms of FFI are:

  • Rapidly progressive dementia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Mild insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in body temperatures

After experiencing the first symptoms, the person may die between 12-18 months of FFI. Currently, there is no cure for it.

How should I prevent sleep deprivation?

Besides referring to the number of hours, a person must sleep depending on their age and lifestyle, sleep quality is also significant. To improve your daytime alertness and avoid any potential risks of sleep deprivation, it is essential to take a sound sleep offering plenty of rest to your brain and mind. 

Maintaining a consistent and realistic sleep schedule is essential. Keep away from electronic gadgets during bedtime. Keep your bedroom comfortable and dark to get a sound sleep. Use a sleep calculator to help to build a sustainable sleep regime. It helps in overcoming the effects of sleep deprivation by monitoring your sleep cycles and indicating sleep deprivation, if any.

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