How long can you go without sleep?
No one knows exactly how long you can go without sleep but at least one motivated teenager in 1965 went a total of 11 days without sleep as part of his project in a science fair. Research studies involving participants going for days without sleep showed no ill effects when it came to medical or psychiatric difficulties. After getting sleep, the subjects returned to normal functioning without long term sequelae. While sleep deprived, the subjects developed worsening concentration, perception and a lack of motivation that only got worse the longer they were forced to go without sleep. Recovery took about 1-2 nights for complete resolution of their sleep deprivation symptoms.
Sleep is a natural part of our everyday life. Experts recommend that everyone get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. If you experience less than that, you can begin to experience symptoms, some of which can be dangerous.
Everyone loses sleep at some point in their lives, such as when studying for tests, staying up with a sick relative, having a newborn baby or just suffering from insomnia. While the lack of sleep will probably not kill you outright, it can lead to extreme cognitive deficits that can be dangerous or deadly in and of themselves.
Many studies have been done on the effects of sleep deprivation, particularly related to workers who must stay up for many hours at a time such as emergency room doctors, pilots, and other military personnel. In at least one study, it was found that staying up for a total of twenty four hours yielded physiological testing errors similar to someone who had a blood alcohol level of 0.10 percent. All areas of the brain are affected, including those that affect judgment, memory, hand-eye coordination and decision making skills. There can be hearing loss as a result of sleep deprivation and a decrease in overall attention, which can have a secondary risk of causing accidents and injuries.
While sleep deprivation itself probably will not kill you, it can so greatly affect your body faculties putting you at risk for fatal accidents. This can be the case with as little as 24 hours without sleep.
How many hours can you go without sleep?
Researchers have studied physiological parameters brought on by not sleeping for 36 hours or more. It has been found that this level of sleep deprivation leads to an increase in inflammatory markers in your blood, which in turn increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, including stroke. Mood is severely affected and the normal levels of various hormones of the body are thrown off by a lack of sleep.
People who do not get enough sleep develop episodes known as “microsleep”. During these episodes, they had brief periods of unintentional sleep in which they had depressed motor and thinking skills. It is believed that these periods of microsleep contribute to car accidents and accidents on the job. Like the teenager who chose to go without sleep for 11 days, you can develop severe cognitive deficits in which you can’t really function.
How long can you go without sleep before you die?
Studies have been on rats that were forced to stay awake for long period of time—up to two weeks or more. These rats eventually died from their sleep deprivation. The research study was relatively cruel to the animals. When their brain waves began to register the onset of sleep, a disc was rotated that pushed the animals into a vat of water, thus keeping them awake trying to stay dry. They couldn’t identify the exact reason why the rats died from sleep deprivation but felt that it had to do with hypermetabolism that wasn’t given a chance to recover during the sleep process.
There are a couple of rare mental disorders that have as part of their symptoms a lack of sleep. One man who had a type of mental disorder experienced periods of hallucinations, weight loss and a sensation of pain and poor circulation in his fingers and toes. One such disorder is called Morvan’s syndrome, People with this disorder can go without sleep and yet can function fairly normally despite being sleep deprived.
Fatal Familial Insomnia
Another such deep sleep disorder is hereditary and is called Fatal Familial Insomnia or FFI. This is a disease passed directly from parent to child and suffers go without sleep for many months to up to a year and a half. People with this disorder, when left untreated; eventually die from a lack of sleep. The sympathetic nervous system is triggered in these people so they experience high blood pressure, ongoing fever, cognitive deficits, disruption of the endocrine system and weight loss.
Why do we sleep?
Sleep and why we sleep remains largely a mystery. Sleep seems to restore our healthy thinking patterns and offers us a time of lowered metabolism so the body can rest as well as the mind. The longer we go without sleep, the worse our brain functions and we begin to have physiological changes in our body which can lead to inflammatory diseases. People with hereditary sleep-deprivation disorders are prone to an early death. Exactly what is going on in these people remains a mystery.
If you suffer from extreme insomnia, it is a good idea to see a doctor about getting your sleep pattern restored, whether it be through taking the natural hormone melatonin or a prescription sleep aid. Certainly the risk of accidents is the most common reason why we might die of a lack of sleep but there appears to be subtle bodily changes that go on when we don’t get enough sleep that can lead to disease and an early death.