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What Happens When You Do Not Sleep For Days?

Someone has rightly said, “Sleeping is not taking rest for today’s hard work. It means gaining energy for tomorrow’s work.” Proper sleep is highly essential for each one of us to stay healthy in mind, body, and health. However, sometimes different circumstances like all-night study sessions, new babies, or important business trips, give us less time to sleep and when this continues for a long, it impacts our health badly.

Everyone is different, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has mentioned that adults should get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night.(1)

But it has also been reported by the CDC or The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 35% of American adults do not get proper and enough sleep every night.(2)

What Happens When You Do Not Sleep For Days?

What Happens When You Do Not Sleep For Days?

Chronic poor sleep can result in serious medical conditions like heart disease, obesity and diabetes. It can also cause mental health issues in many of us, especially if we do not sleep for days. Let us read further and know what happens when you do not sleep for days.

    1. With 24 Hours Without Sleep You Might Experience An Impaired Coordination, Memory, And Judgment

      When you do not sleep for 24 hours, the stress hormones, particularly adrenaline and cortisol increase while fighting against fatigue. You might start experiencing impaired coordination, memory, and judgment.

      According to past research, it has been found that at 24 hours, the consequences of sleep deprivation could be compared to the cognitive impairment of someone who has 0.1% of blood alcohol content.(3) Cleveland Clinic says that you have a reduced reaction time, reduced thinking, and slurred speech.(4)

      A small study which was published in the Journal of Sleep Research in 2016, mentions that twenty-nine healthy young men who were kept awake for twenty-four hours were more likely to recall false memories due to lack of sleep.(5)

      So, it can be said that your memory gets impaired, your judgment is affected, and you also suffer a deterioration in decision-making if you do not sleep for 24 hours.

    2. With 36 Hours Without Sleep Your Physical Health And Mental Health Begin To Deteriorate

      If you do not sleep for more than 36 hours, your physical health begins to deteriorate. High level of inflammatory markers gets into the bloodstream and this can ultimately cause high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.

      Research suggests that if sleep is interrupted chronically or not happening at all, the elevated level of blood pressure might get you at risk of hypertension.(6) Not sleeping for 36 hours or more can also increase your risk of obesity, diabetes and thyroid disorders.

      You also suffer from mood swings and anxiety. You might also experience difficulty concentrating and learning new information.

      According to a study, where 35 undergraduate students were kept awake for 36 hours, it was found that the students were slow to notice any change in their environment and also had a delayed response to new stimuli.(7)

    3. With 48 Hours Without Sleep You Start Experiencing A Disrupted Immune System

      At 48 hours of lack of sleep, you start experiencing a disrupted immune system. Certain studies have shown that lack of sleep can quadruple your risk of getting caught by the common cold or flu.(8) This is because when you are deprived of sleep, your body temperature lowers, and this ultimately makes it easy for viruses and other germs to attack you. Apart from this, Cytokines (specific proteins) are produced during sleep and are responsible for fighting inflammation. So, if you are not sleeping for days, you start lacking these cytokines in your blood, and this can again contribute to immune suppression.

There Begins Impaired Thinking, Anxiety, And Hallucinations: At 48 Hours

Apart from immune suppression, you also start experiencing anxiety, impaired thinking, and hallucinations if you remain awake for 48 hours. You are dealing with extreme sleep deprivation if you haven’t fallen asleep for 48 hours.

To compensate for this lack of sleep, your body shuts down for “microsleep”, i.e. 3-15 second burst of rest, during which your brain gets switched off and you might not be aware consciously of what is occurring around you.

According to research, the brain waves when measured by electroencephalogram suggest that there are similarities and differences between the four stages of sleep during microsleep.(9)

After not sleeping for more than 48 hours, you might suffer from anxiety, irritability, impaired thinking, and foggy memory. There is chance that you might even encounter hallucinations, such as hearing or seeing things that are actually not present. Sometimes you might even feel depressed.

  1. With 72 Hours Without Sleep You Might Experience Diminished Libido

    Though sex can help you have a good night’s sleep, not sleeping for several days might make you unwilling to have sex. It has been proved that when studies conducted on men who had poor sleep (5 hours or less) for a week, had a 10% to 15% reduced level of testosterone in their blood. So, if you do not sleep for 72 hours or more, you might experience diminished libido.

There Might Be Severe Cognitive Deficit And Hallucinations: At 72 Hours

There occurs a significant reduction in concentration, perception, and motivation, if you remain awake for several days. It is believed that if you do not sleep for 72 hours, there might be a severe cognitive deficits and even hallucinations experienced by you.

According to a study conducted on 12 astronauts who were either assigned to sleep deprivation for 72 hours or to remain isolated for 72 hours, which was published in “Comprehensive Psychiatry”, it was found that those astronauts had increased heart rates, reduced positive emotions, and higher negative mood when compared with the group that lived in 72 hours of isolation.(10)

So, when you do not sleep for more than 72 hours, you start feeling a decline in your cognitive function and even start experiencing hallucinations, paranoia and delusions.

How To Recover After Not Sleeping For Days?

If you have not been sleeping for days or experiencing sleep deprivation, you can possibly recover from it by sleeping more. To get adequate sleep you need to practice good sleep hygiene or sleeping habits.

You can begin by going to bed early and trying to maintain a pleasant sleep environment to have at lest 7-8 hours of sleep every night. It can take days or even weeks to recover from sleep deprivation. The longer you have remain awake without sleeping, the longer it will take you to come back on track.

Sleep Enough Before Sleep Deprivation Harms You!

Extreme symptoms can begin even after one day of not sleeping. So, it is essential to have enough of sound and uninterrupted sleep and prevent yourself from the harmful effects of sleep deprivation. It is possible to prevent yourself from those harmful effects of lack of sleep by maintain good sleep habits and talking to doctor if nothing helps you fall asleep. Your doctor might advice you on some healthy ways to sleep or can find out the root cause of your sleep issue and help you have a proper sleep with specific medications or treatments.

Have a pleasant sleep!


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 19, 2022

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