All-night study sessions, important business deals, new babies — most people will experience a taste of sleep deprivation at some point in life. While the occasional lack of sleep may not seem like a big deal, the impact of sleep deprivation can be intense and its effects can linger. In extreme circumstances, sleep deprivation can ultimately lead to death.
“As a society, as families and individuals, we have not yet fully appreciated the importance of sleep,” said Terry Cralle, RN, MS, CPHQ, a certified clinical sleep educator and educator in Virginia. “Sleep, along with diet and exercise, constitutes the very foundation of good health.” In fact, she said, the three are so interconnected that each needs to be a priority.
Image Source: Timothy Krause
Without question, both the brain and the body experience extreme changes when deprived of sleep. That being the case, what exactly happens if you really try to push your sleep deprivation to the limit? We’re not talking about pulling a simple all-nighter, but rather staying up for anywhere between 36 and 72 hours straight.
Everyday Health has an interesting piece which maps out what happens to both your mind and body when you refuse to lie down and even get a quick power nap in.
24 hours of no sleep
Citing a 2010 study in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health, the report notes that “the consequences of sleep deprivation at 24 hours is comparable to the cognitive impairment of someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 percent.” Specifically, going on no sleep for 24 hours straight will hamper your memory, ability to focus, your hearing, and hand-eye coordination.
36 hours of no sleep
Registered nurse and clinical sleep educator Terry Cralle explains that people up for 36 hours straight will see their cardiovascular health and blood pressure adversely affected. It’s at this point, Cralle notes, that “your health begins to be at risk.” With an increased heart rate and rise in blood pressure, the risk of having a stroke also increases.
48 hours of no sleep
According to the report, 2 straight days of no sleep yields the following consequences: “The body begins compensating by shutting down for microsleeps, episodes that last from half a second to half a minute and are usually followed by a period of disorientation.” Notably, microsleeps happen on their own, it’s not something one can consciously avoid.
72 hours of no sleep
At this point, you can expect to see huge problems with “concentration, motivation, perception, and other higher mental processes.” Also, it’s not uncommon for people up for three days straight to begin hallucinating. Additionally, staying up for three days straight will adversely affect one’s senses, including their vision, sense of smell, and sense of touch. Other consequences include tremors, false memories, and muscle aches.