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How Long Can You Go Without Sleep? The Truth Exposed!

Updated July 20, 2019

Sleeping is an essential part of everyday life, unless you’re like me and don’t know how to shut your brain off during the night. Over the years, there have been multiple studies about how much sleep is recommended for certain age groups each night, but has anyone really answered the question as to how long you can go without sleep? Well, luckily for you, I have found the answer.

Sleep & Body Function

Experts say that if you feel drowsy during the day, even during boring activities, you haven’t had enough sleep. If you routinely fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, you probably have severe sleep deprivation, possibly even a sleep disorder.”

Sleeping

Essentially, sleep is a tune-up for your body. It’s like a car, if you don’t tune it up once in awhile it won’t run like it should. The aim is for 7 to 8 hours of sleep for an adult. Sometimes it can be hard, especially if you have a lot of stress in your life. For me, stress keeps my brain running all night and I wake up groggy and grumpy.

It is also said that sleep makes you smarter. While you are sleeping, your brain sorts through everything that you took in that day and decides what is to be kept or tossed. “If you are trying to learn something, go to bed”, says David M. Rapoport, MD.

 

Sleep As A Healer

 

Sleeping in side position

Sleep also helps your brain release hormones that help with tissue growth. So when you have an injury, it is best to get as much sleep as you can in order to heal faster. It also helps your body to make more white blood cells that help keep viruses away and attack them.

Not only does it encourage injury healing, it also helps to give your heart a break. During sleep, your body adjusts your stress hormones which can help reduce the risk of heart disease, inflammation, diabetes, and other conditions.

In one study, people who slept at least 8 hours a night were 3 times less likely to come down with a cold than those who got 7 hours or less.” Okay, so we know what sleep can do for us when we do get enough of it, but what happens if we don’t?

Effects Of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Deprivation

When you don’t get enough of those precious Z’s, your brain does not function properly, as I stated earlier. But, if this continues for a long period of time, the effects can be catastrophic. Not sleeping will start to affect your immune system, central nervous system, respiratory system, digestive system, cause brain damage and more

Deprivation & Alcohol

There was a study performed at the School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia that showed how not sleeping for a long period of time resulted in the effects of being intoxicated:

“After 17-19 hours without sleep, corresponding to 2230 and 0100, performance on some tests was equivalent or worse than that at a BAC of 0.05%. Response speeds were up to 50% slower for some tests and accuracy measures were significantly poorer than at this level of alcohol. After longer periods without sleep, performance reached levels equivalent to the maximum alcohol dose given to subjects (BAC of 0.1%).”
Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1739867/pdf/v057p00649.pdf

lack of sleep

So, the moral of the story here is that when you are lacking sleep for more than 17 hours, it is equivalent to being drunk which leads to an impairment in judgement and slower reaction speeds. This can have devastating effects on you or the people around you.

Effects On The Central Nervous System

hallucinations

Your central nervous system is your body’s information highway. If you don’t get enough sleep, it isn’t going to function properly. When you do sleep, your brain helps to make new pathways.

Sleep deprivation is exhausting to the brain and when it is exhausted, you aren’t going to be able to concentrate or learn new things. Your memory can be lost or altered, your decision-making process can be corrupt, and your emotions can get out of control causing mood swings.

If you go without sleep for long enough, you are at a high risk for hallucinations which could be worsened by another condition such as narcolepsy or systemic lupus erythematosis.

Hallucinations are also present in exploding head syndrome which is referred to as an episodic cranial sensory shock. Click here for more information.

How Long Can You Go?

In 1965, a high school student set out to answer this question for everybody, he lasted 11 days. Today, that study may be a little different since we have more factors that play a role in keeping people awake for longer, like those 5-hour energy drinks that taste absolutely horrible, in my opinion.

stay awake

There have been other reports of soldiers lasting four days without sleep and unmedicated patients with mania lasting three to four days. Honestly, it all depends on the specific person, underlying medical conditions, environmental factors and so much more.

So, I know you have a lot of specific questions that I may not have answered in my little blurb, so I will go ahead and do that now.

Can You Die From Lack Of Sleep?

It is possible if given enough time, but no human has died from it so far. Animals, on the other hand have, which strongly suggests that it could happen to humans if given the right circumstances.

How Long Before You Start Hallucinating?

Research has shown that after 2-3 days you could start to hallucinate depending on the circumstances.

How Long Before You Start Going Insane?

Lack of sleep can have an effect on certain psychological disorders that could cause some to start having manic episodes, it all depends on the person and the condition.

How Long Has Someone Gone Without Sleep?

11-days and 24 minutes in 1965 without any stimulants.

To Sum It Up

To sum everything up, it is unknown how long someone could actually go without sleep. There have been some timelines through the years to show how long certain people have gone before hallucinating, going into a manic state, having neurological and physical side effects and more.

All-in-all it depends on the person and what kind of condition they have as to how long they can go without sleep. So, it is tough to say conclusively how long someone could live without sleep, although in this day and age there are a lot of stimulants that could keep someone awake for an unknown amount of days, maybe weeks, I don’t recommend trying it, though.

So, with that said, if you have any comments, questions, concerns, or a cool story about how long you have been able to stay awake without side effects, reach out to us in the comments, we would love to hear from you.