Published on 11 November 2021

How Long Can You Survive Without Sleeping?

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Are you a Gen-Z kid? Do you sacrifice your sleep to binge-watch Netflix series? If your answer to the question was a yes, then you have at least once thought about how long one can go without sleeping. Well, let us understand why sleep is essential and how much sleep is adequate for your body.

Generally speaking, you can survive without sleep for around 11 days, maximally though people have gone up to 18. However, this isn't necessarily recommended since lack of sleep has physical and cognitive impairments beyond being groggy, including increased inflammatory processes, impaired immune functioning, risk of depression, and other health problems. It's best to ensure you get sufficient restful sleep to stay healthy!

What Is The Adequate Amount Of Sleep One Needs?

Whatever age you are, getting good sleep is essential for your body. It is universally accepted that every individual requires 8 hours of sleep to function correctly. The amount of sleep one needs is usually divided into different age segments. For example, on average, a newborn baby (0-3 months old) requires 14-17 hours of sleep daily, while a toddler or preschool kid can function very well on just 10-14 hours of sleep per day. 

A teenager or a young adult requires 8-9 hours of sleep to maintain good health, while older adults can function on 7-8 hours daily. The amount of sleep needed usually goes on decreasing as you grow up.

Although there is a scale for the adequate amount of sleep one requires to function correctly according to age, it isn't accurate. Sleep differs from person to person. An individual can get a good rest of 14 hours and still feel lazy the whole day, while some people can feel fresh and active even after sleeping only for 5- hours.

Why Is Sleep So Essential?

Getting good sleep is as vital as eating healthy foods and exercising. Not getting a good amount of sleep can severely affect your health and your daily functioning. Here's a list of reasons why it is essential to get good deep sleep.

  • Getting the right amount of sleep can boost your immune system to fight diseases like colds, flu, etc. Getting good sleep means giving good rest to your immune cells to function more efficiently.
  • It can also help you from gaining more weight. If you don't get sufficient sleep, your body produces a hormone called "ghrelin" that boosts your appetite, responsible for your late-night cravings.
  • Not getting enough sleep can affect your exercise routine as well. A study found that basketball players who didn't sleep well underperformed in the games. In short, sleep is an essential part of your muscle recovery. Not getting enough sleep can reduce your strength and powers.
  • Sleep also impacts your mood. Getting good sleep means being well-rested, which causes your energy levels to soar, elevating your mood.
  • Not getting enough sleep can have adverse effects on your heart as well. It can cause problems like high blood pressure and even heart attacks.
  • Not getting enough sleep can prove fatal because it reduces your reaction time. This can cause you to get in road accidents that can be lethal.

How Long Can You Survive Without Sleep?

The current world record for a person without sleep is 266 hours, which calculates to a few hours over 11 days.

The answer to the question 'How long can a person survive without sleep?' remains unknown. Sleep differs from person to person, as mentioned earlier, so there can't be a definite number of days an individual can go without sleeping.

You can try to deprive yourself of knowing how long you can go without sleep, but it isn't advisable because sleep deprivation can adversely affect your physical and mental health. Here's a list of things you will start experiencing every passing day if you sleep deprive yourself.

After 24 hours:

Generally, most people will start experiencing the effects of sleep deprivation in the first 24 hours. A study states that being sleep deprived for 24 hours is equivalent to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 %.

You will start seeing symptoms like drowsiness, concentration and memory difficulties, reduced coordination, impaired judgment, raised levels of stress hormones, a higher risk of accidents, and muscle tension. These symptoms occur because the brain enters a state called 'local sleep' in which the body shuts down a few neurons in some brain regions, causing the body to look fully awake but still causing difficulties in performing complex tasks.

After 48 hours:

After two days, you will find it challenging to stay awake. With every passing hour, sleep deprivation intensifies. After going 48 hours without sleep, your body will start to lose its cognitive ability, and you will start feeling fatigued. By this stage, you will begin to experience microsleep. 

Microsleeps are short periods of unconsciousness. It occurs involuntarily for several seconds. You might feel confused or distorted after a microsleep. By this time, your immune system will also start taking a hit.

After 72 hours:

After 72 hours, sleep deprivation will intensify even more, and you will start getting a strong urge to sleep, and many people can't stay awake by themselves. Sleep deprivation will begin significantly affecting your mood and cognition with every passing hour.

A few symptoms of sleep deprivation you will start feeling are extreme fatigue, severe concentration and memory issues, difficulty multi-tasking, depressed mood, paranoia, and difficulty communicating with others.

According to a study in 2015, two astronauts experienced increased heart rate, impaired cognitive functions, and a reduction in positive emotions after staying awake for 72 hours.

Going beyond this can have severe long-term effects like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety/ depression, diabetes, etc.

Can Food And Water Affect Sleeping?

Food and water have a significant impact on sleep as they are essential for fueling the body and keeping it in a healthy state. Eating before bed is tricky as certain foods can be too heavy or contain stimulants like caffeine that can cause difficulty falling asleep. 

Similarly, consuming excessive amounts of liquid before bedtime can lead to overnight trips to the bathroom. It's always important to not eat too close to sleep, and if you do get hungry, opt for something light, preferably a source of protein rather than carbs which will help maintain steady blood sugar levels overnight. Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day may affect you, but drinking smaller amounts later at night is also beneficial. 

What Is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation refers to not getting enough sleep. This can happen due to various factors, such as lifestyle choices, medical disorders, or a hectic schedule. It significantly affects your overall well-being and can cause physical and cognitive impairments.

Chronic Sleep Deprivation 

Chronic sleep deprivation is a serious issue that can have a long-lasting impact on your health and well-being. Lack of sleep hurts your thinking and feelings and can contribute to various physical illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression. 

Poor sleeping patterns also increase the risk of accidents due to lack of focus and drowsiness. The key to combating this issue is maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding technology before bedtime, and keeping bedrooms cool and dark. 

Most importantly, ensure you get enough sleep every night by creating standards for yourself. Seven hours or more is recommended!

Short-Term Sleep Deprivation

Short-term sleep deprivation can be a significant drag if you want to live the most out of everyday life. Whether it's from an all-nighter, poor sleeping habits, too much stress, jet lag, or simply catching up on work and projects, not getting enough sleep is a real buzzkill, leaving us exhausted and unable to function optimally. 

Cognitive skills such as concentration and alertness take a significant hit while emotions become unstable, making it difficult to cope with relationships and everyday tasks. Sleep deprivation can immediately impact moods and behavior, resulting in erratic thinking that can lead to risky decisions. 

To avoid fatigue and impairment related to short-term sleep loss, it is essential to make good sleeping habits by going to bed at the same time every night so that your body gets used to the routine.

General Tips For Better Sleep

There are a few essential tips to keep in mind. 

  • Ensure your bedroom is dark, calm, and quiet with comfortable bedding and temperature.
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, smoking, and recreational drugs before sleep; 
  • Don't look at screens for at least an hour before bed; this will help to decrease your exposure to blue light from devices
  • which can affect how well you're able to fall asleep.
  • Exercise during the day to help you fall asleep easily at night.

Also, Read

Bottom Line From Practical Anxiety Solutions 

Sleep differs from person to person. One can go two days without sleep, while another would find it hard even to go 24 hours without sleep. You can try to find out how long can 'you' last without sleep, but it is highly not advisable because it can severely affect your health physically and mentally. In short, there isn't any honest answer to the question. 

But it is advised to sleep every day and take enough time. This will make it easy for the person to work the next day effectively.