You may have had a couple of all-nighters back in college when you were studying for your midterms. You know what it’s like to be deprived of sleep – you start to feel drowsy during the day, you can’t concentrate on anything and your mood changes in seconds.
What if you couldn’t sleep night after night – how long could you survive without any sleep at all? Let’s take a look.
The Timeline of No Sleep
At 24 hours, your brain is not looking too good. In fact, it looks a bit like someone’s brain who has a blood alcohol level of 0.10, which is well over the legal driving limit.
As well as this, you’ll experience a number of different symptoms that include difficulty hearing, feeling irritable, impaired memory, a decrease in attention span, increase in the risk of injury or accidental death, and an overall lack of good judgment.
Once you’ve been awake for 36 hours, no sleep begins to take a serious toll on your physical health, as well as your physiological well-being.
Repeatedly going for 36 hours without sleep can start to have a permanent effect on your health, including increased blood pressure, heart disease and an imbalance of your hormones. You can even experience big blocks of memory loss and not be able to recall what happened for hours at a time.
If you’ve officially been awake for two days straight and haven’t slept a wink, you may start to experience something called ‘microsleep.’ While the name sounds endearing, the symptom it represents is far from it.
This is when you experience miniature blackouts that can last for approximately 30 seconds. You will have no idea it’s occurring, but when you come out of it, you’ll feel disorientated.
If you’ve been awake for a whopping 72 hours, then you may begin to experience hallucinations. This is one symptom of the fact that your brain is desperately trying to keep it together. Having a basic conversation and concentrating can be near impossible tasks when you’ve been awake for this long.
Causes and Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
Fatal Familial Insomnia
People who experience Fatal Familial Insomnia will only have a lifespan of roughly six to thirty months. This is because the sleep deprivation associated with this condition will result in a complete breakdown of parts of your brain, as well as organ failure.
While Fatal Familial Insomnia is considered an infectious disease, you can’t get it from merely touching the affected person or having sexual intercourse with them. In fact, you have to be able to actually touch their brain, or be in direct contact with their blood i.e., through a blood transfusion.
For some people, experiencing sleep deprivation doesn’t come as a choice. People who have Morvan’s Syndrome have all been found to have issues with sleeping. People with this condition can end up going for months without any sleep, resulting in serious physical pain and hallucinations.
As well as these symptoms, patients with Morvan’s Syndrome may experience weight loss, excessive sweating, and twitching of the muscles.
Restless Legs Syndrome
This is a disorder of the nervous system, which manifests in an uncontrollable urge to continually readjust your legs. It comes with twitching and tingling as well, otherwise considered to be pins and needles-like sensation.
While the most common demographic to experience this condition are middle-aged women, everyone is susceptible to it.
Sleep Apnea is a surprisingly common condition and occurs when your airway becomes blocked with either reduces or eliminates the ability to breathe. People who experience this condition will end up waking up several times during the night which can serve to disrupt their sleep cycle significantly.
There are many different causes of Sleep Apnea. Among these are kidney or heart failure, obesity, enlarged tonsils, premature birth, and even genetic disorders. You may also experience it if you have a misaligned jaw.
Children are most likely to experience night terrors. They’re different from nightmares because they produce vivid hallucinations that can last for as long as thirty minutes at a time. While the child is awake throughout this, a lot of the time they won’t be able to recall what they’ve seen.
How Long Can You Last Without Sleep?
The short answer is, we don’t know. In fact, there’s also debates about whether we need all the different sleep phases in order to survive.
Can You Die From Not Sleeping?
While not sleeping alone won’t kill you, the physical effects of it can be fatal in some circumstances. This is because, after several days without sleep, your body begins to shut down and so does your brain. Additionally, when you’re sleep deprived, you can make more mistakes, some of which may prove to be fatal.
You may be tempted to see how long you can go without sleep. While you may be able to get a bit more done, the physical and physiological effects on your body just aren’t worth it.
If you’re someone who is genuinely looking for a way to create more time to do things, you can try sleeping for smaller stints throughout a typical 24 hour period.
This method can increase your levels of productivity and give you a few more hours in the day to get everything done. However, if you try to do to this long-term, you may come up against some complications.