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How Long Can You Go Without Sleep?

Posted By: Layla

In today's day and age, getting quality sleep can be difficult to achieve. In fact, the CDC finds that a whopping 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep—now that’s a nightmare! Sleep is essential for living a healthy life. It’s during this time that your body restores itself, so you can wake up feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the day. But what happens if you’re not getting enough sleep? A lack of sleep poses numerous harmful health consequences, which can make your waking life less than ideal.

How Long Can You Go Without Sleep?

With that said, many may be wondering: how long can a person go without sleep? Below, we’re going to cover how long you can go without sleep, along with what happens after you go a few days or more without getting any shut eye (hint: it’s not good!).

How many days can you go without sleep?

How long can you go without sleep? The longest time without sleep ever recorded was 264 hours. That’s a little over 11 days! This feat was accomplished back in 1963 by a San Diego high schooler named Randy Gardner, who regrets this decision, even 50 years later.

During a 2017 interview with National Public Radio, Gardner claimed the first two days of wakefulness were relatively easy. However, after day three of no sleep, he began to feel nauseous, irritable and stopped remembering things. Now, more than 50 years later, Gardner blames this sleepless stunt on his current insomnia and sleep deprivation.

Currently, there’s no research that tells us how long a human can survive without sleep. However, with Gardner as an example and others who suffer from sleeping disorders, it’s evident that sleep affects emotions, health, and overall well-being.

What happens after 24 hours of no sleep

We’ve all experienced a full day without sleep, or at least close. From studying through the night for a final exam to crunching numbers at work, 24 hours without sleep can be easy to achieve if something time-consuming pops up on your schedule. Pulling an all-nighter isn’t recommended, though. As you may have noticed with each waking hour, going 24 hours without sleep can leave you drowsy, irritable, and downright cranky.

24 hours of no sleep

Sleep is important for a variety of reasons. Studies have found that just 17 to 19 hours without sleep was comparable to a person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05% and resulted in a decrease in response speeds by 50%. As you near 24 hours without sleep, additional research found you can be comparable to a person with a BAC of 0.10%, which is above the legal driving limit in every state, which is usually set at 0.08%.

Missing out on sleep can be dangerous, especially if you’re operating a motor vehicle or dangerous equipment. But a foggy brain isn’t the only consequence of skimping out on sleep. After 24 hours of no sleep, you may notice some of these consequences:

  • Inability to focus
  • Worsened hand-eye coordination
  • An impairment in judgment
  • A change in perceptions
  • Deficits in memory
  • Increased drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Hearing impairments
  • Vision impairments
  • Difficulty making decisions

What happens after 36 hours of no sleep

After a day and a half of no sleep, your cognitive abilities will continue to decline, making it more challenging to remember things and function properly. When you sleep at night, your brain releases chemicals and hormones, such as growth hormones, cortisol, and insulin. If you fail to catch some shut eye, your appetite, mood, stress levels, metabolism, and temperature will be impaired.

36 hours of no sleep

One study found that after 36 hours without sleep, visual memory, confidence judgment, noun presentation and verb generation, and response inhibition all decreased in performance. Another study even found that no sleep for 36 hours makes it difficult to recall faces accurately. Other effects of 36 hours without sleep include:

  • Speech impairments
  • Increase in risky behavior
  • Enhanced fatigue
  • A drop in attention
  • Hormonal imbalances

What happens after 48 hours of no sleep

Once you reach two days of no sleep, it will become increasingly difficult to stay awake, and your immune system will begin to shut down. After 48 hours of missed sleep, your body will produce fewer NK cells (natural killer cells), also known as white blood cells. These cells are responsible for fighting off harmful viruses and bacteria that can make you sick.

48 hours of no sleep

Two days of no rest will also lead to “microsleeps,” or short bursts of sleep that can last anywhere between a half-second and thirty seconds. While this is an incredibly short timespan, microsleeps can be extremely dangerous, especially if you’re driving. It’s found that roughly 100,000 crashes occur each year due to fatigued drivers sitting behind the wheel.

What happens after 72 hours of no sleep

After three days of no sleep, Randy Gardner began to feel the harsh effects of sleep deprivation, such as nausea and irritability. For most people, staying awake this long can be nearly impossible. In Gardner’s case, however, he had two friends and a researcher keeping him awake for the entirety of the experiment, which lasted 11 days.

72 hours of no sleep

When you reach 72 hours of no sleep, your body and brain will begin to shut down. The ability to think, multitask, pay attention, and complete tasks will be severely inhibited. Three days of wakefulness can also lead to paranoia, depression, illusions, and even hallucinations. For example, you may think a familiar object like a tree is something else, such as an animal. Or, you may begin to see things that aren’t even there. Your mind is a powerful tool, but when it doesn’t get the rest it needs, it can turn against you.

How much sleep do you need?

As you can tell, sleep deprivation can lead to some pretty serious health concerns, along with long-term health consequences such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure. When it comes to the amount of sleep you need each night, adults should be aiming for 7 to 9 hours.

Below are the recommendations set by the National Sleep Foundation for the recommended number of hours of sleep by age range:

  • Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours
  • Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours
  • Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours
  • School-aged children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours
  • Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours
  • Young adults (18 to 25 years): 7 to 9 hours
  • Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours
  • Older adults (≥ 65 years): 7 to 8 hours

If you’re currently struggling to catch the recommended number of Zzz’s per night, you may need to adjust to a new sleep schedule. Practicing good sleep hygiene, such as exercising throughout the day, staying hydrated, and creating a relaxing bedroom can also help you fall asleep quicker and sleep deeper throughout the night. The bright side of the negative effects of sleep deprivation is that once you do sleep your recommended number of hours per night, you’ll begin feeling refreshed and rejuvenated as soon as the next day.

Causes of sleep deprivation

Are you tossing and turning throughout the night counting sheep and begging to the sleep gods for just a wink of sleep? Your sleep deprivation may be caused by a few factors that are worth addressing. Some causes of sleep deprivation include:

  • Sleep disorders, such as insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea
  • Illnesses, such as depression, schizophrenia, cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic pain syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Aging, as people over the age of 65 have difficulty sleeping due to medications or medical problems they’re facing
  • Personal obligations, such as taking care of a baby or caring for a relative
  • Work hours, especially for those who tend to work night shifts

How to get better sleep

If you suffer from sleep deprivation, it’s time to take control of your situation head-on. There are plenty of ways you can get better sleep in order for you to live your waking life to the fullest. Start sleeping better with these tips:

  • Create a relaxing bedroom that’s free from technology. Blue light emitted from TVs, laptops, tablets, and cell phones disrupt your body’s internal clock and the release of melatonin, which is the chemical responsible for helping you fall asleep.
  • Invest in a comfortable sleeping surface. For those seeking a more cushioned slumber, try out the Layla Memory Foam Mattress, complete with copper-infused memory foam that keeps you comfortable throughout the night. If you’re looking for a mattress with a more traditional feel that doesn’t compromise comfort, try the Layla Hybrid Mattress, which infuses memory foam with an individually wrapped coil system.
  • Exercise during the day, but not too close to bedtime. Exercising in the morning or afternoon raises your body temperature. When it cools down a few hours later, you will begin to feel drowsy, which will help you fall asleep faster. And, if you exercise outdoors, exposure to natural light will help regulate your sleep-wake cycle.

However, if you continue to miss hours of slumber, you may need to seek medical attention and advice from a doctor. Sleeping disorders, such as insomnia or sleep apnea, can lead to additional health problems and impact your ability to function.

Time for some shut eye

Thanks to Randy Gardner, we now know the answer to, “how long can a person go without sleep?” After 264 hours awake, Gardner set the world record for the longest time without sleep. However, his study, along with others conducted throughout the years, shows that lack of sleep has some pretty significant health consequences.

From the inability to focus, to hallucinating and seeing illusions, not getting enough rest can be dangerous. Whether you suffer a sleeping disorder or your lifestyle impedes on your slumber, it’s crucial to get your sleep routine under control to live your best waking life. At Layla, we offer the final piece to that puzzle in the form of our top of the line mattresses, pillows, and bedding that make falling asleep a dream.