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How Long Can You Go Without Sleep? Here’s Why Sleep Is So Important

You may be surprised at just how long you can force yourself to stay awake. However, going without sleep can have physical and mental effects that extend far beyond simply feeling sleepy. In fact, sleep is one of the most important aspects when it comes to supporting your health.

Here’s What Happens When You Go Without Sleep

There are factors like age and illness that might alter how long some people need to sleep. Even your own ability to stay awake might change from day-to-day, depending on your physical activity level or diet.1

But, there are some common effects that most people experience after a sleepless night or two. Check out what may happen to your body, mood, and mental focus after lots of time without sleep.2

24 Hours Without Sleep

Anyone who’s gone to a slumber party or crammed for a big exam or work presentation has probably gone a night without sleep. It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s at this point that you may begin to experience the adverse effects of sleeplessness.

how long can you go without sleep | NucificIn fact, scientists equate 24 hours without sleep to having a blood alcohol concentration level of .10 percent. That exceeds most state’s legal levels for driving a car. In other words, your behavior becomes “impaired.”3

24 hours of sleep deprivation might also alter your attention and decision-making abilities.4 Other potential issues may include:

  • Lack of good judgment
  • Decreased hand-eye coordination
  • Hearing impairment5

48 Hours Without Sleep

At the two-day mark, most people struggle to stay awake. Hallucinations may occur. After this much time without sleep, you can expect behavioral changes, such as irritability and lack of cohesion.6

A long period without sleep also negatively affects the immune system. Sleep deprivation can decrease the activity of certain cells that help fight off viruses and bacteria.7

You may experience cognitive impairment and extreme hallucinations.8

For example, one study found that after 30 hours awake, participants struggled to identify the difference between happy and angry facial expressions.9

how long can you go without sleep | NucificSleep Deprivation

The timeframes above are examples of one-off periods without sleep. While very unhealthy, most of the time, a night of rest can restore your body back to normal. But, what happens when you don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis? This may be considered chronic sleeplessness, and it can lead to excessive daytime fatigue, impaired motor skills, and even weight gain.10

Note: See a doctor right away if you experience trouble with your sleep schedule.

Stress Levels And Sleep Deprivation

Stress is the number one reason for most short-term, involuntary sleep loss. Any number of factors at work, school, or life may be keeping you up at night. Typically, when these stressful events or influences go away, the sleep issues follow.11

The Importance Of Good Sleep

As you can see, a lack of sleep may have a profound effect on your body. That’s because regular sleep plays a significant role in regulating all aspects of your health including bodily and mental functions.

time without sleep | Nucific

When you sleep, your body and mind slow down and go through several stages of recovery. Lack of sleep can prevent these processes from occurring. This may negatively affect some of your most crucial bodily functions, such as concentration, energy, and mood.12

Proper sleep is considered vital to a healthy lifestyle. It can regulate everything from your life expectancy to your glucose levels.13 Here are a few more of the most common potential benefits associated with a restful night of sleep.

Enhanced Focus

Proper rest contributes to more insightful thinking and improved focus.14

All that extra brian power may stem from the fact that during sleep, your brain is hard at work recuperating and repairing neurons that keep your mind firing on all cylinders.15

Mood

how long can you go without sleep | NucificA proper night of sleep can do wonders for your mood and mental health. When you don’t sleep it alters neurotransmitters that can greatly impact your ability to regulate emotions. Lack of sleep can also lead to more persistent mood issues like depression and anxiety.16

Personal Safety

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that around 100,000 car accidents occur every year because of fatigued drivers. In fact, they hypothesize that less than 6 hours of sleep triples your risk of an incident. This can be relevant for anyone who commutes or drives often.17

Longevity

A study from the American Academy Of Sleep Medicine found a connection between sleep and aging. Research suggests that when you go without sleep, it may activate molecular processes that promote biological aging.18

Recommended Sleep Intervals

lack of sleep | NucificIn general, most professionals suggest you get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day depending on your age. This lets you complete the recommended number of sleep cycles to help keep you refreshed and alert for the day to come.19

Some Is Better Than None At All

Some people may give up on sleep if they lie awake in the middle of the night. However, even a little sleep can be beneficial. Ninety minutes of sleep would allow you to complete a whole sleep cycle and potentially feel more refreshed. Also, a 20-minute nap might help restore some of your energy.20 Again, make sure to talk to your doctor if this is happening to you on a regular basis.

Lack Of Sleep Leads To Poor Health

There’s no hard and fast time for how long humans can go without sleep. Most people can go 24 hours without rest, but they may begin to experience changes — like decreased attention and impaired judgment. The truth is, you should NEVER force your body to stay awake through the night. Sleep is extremely important for health and essential for life.

Learn More:
-Foods To Help You Fall Asleep Faster: Try These Healthy Late Night Snacks For A Good Night’s Sleep
-The Relationship Between Sleep and Fitness: Can Sleep Quality Affect Your Fitness Goals?
-Health Effects Of Irregular Sleep And Sleep Deprivation

Sources
1 https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/04/benefits-slumber
2 https://www.huffpost.com/entry/studies-show-sleep-deprivation-performance-is-similar-to-being-under-the-influence-of-alcohol_b_9562992
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1739867/pdf/v057p00649.pdf
4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656292/
5 https://www.sleepadvisor.org/can-you-survive-without-sleep/
6 https://www.outsideonline.com/health/wellness/your-body-no-sleep/
7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241621/
8 https://www.businessinsider.com.au/insomnia-effects-what-if-you-stopped-sleeping-2020-11
9 https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/33/3/335/2513714
10 https://www.sleepassociation.org/sleep-disorders/sleep-deprivation/
11 https://www.centralstate.edu/faculty/hr/documents/Whysleepisimportantandwhathappenswhenyoudon.pdf
12 https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/what-happens-when-you-sleep
13 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15133379/
14 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26271496/
15 https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-deprivation/lack-of-sleep-and-cognitive-impairment
16 https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health
17 https://drowsydriving.org/about/detection-and-prevention/
18 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150610131728.htm
19 https://health.clevelandclinic.org/happens-body-dont-get-enough-sleep/
20 https://www.sleepadvisor.org/one-hour-of-sleep/