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How Long Does It Take To Die Of Sleep Deprivation

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Results Of Sleep Deprivation Experiments With Rats

While studies on rats show sleep deprivation can cause death, Dr Marshall doesn’t think the findings have relevance to humans.

“To make rats go without sleep, you have to do nasty things to them and you’re essentially torturing them,” he says.

“That’s not comparable to humans.”

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The rare human genetic disorder Fatal Familial Insomnia causes extended sleeplessness and is fatal after about six to 30 months, according to Scientific American magazine.

However, the magazine argues the condition is misnamed because death results from multiple organ failure rather than sleep deprivation.

Dr Marshall says our body’s requirement for sleep is something we should respect.

While scientists don’t yet understand exactly why our bodies need sleep so badly, the Sleep Health Foundation believes it “restores us physically and helps us organise things in our brain”.

But worrying obsessively about lack of sleep can make sleeplessness worse so it’s important to take a balanced view.

“It’s probably not good for you to fail to get enough sleep for long periods of time,” Dr Marshall says.

“You should try and get enough sleep for you and while the amount people need is highly variable, for most people, it’s about seven or eight hours a night.

“But small perturbations in your sleep are not something you should worry unduly about.”

If you have trouble sleeping, these habits may help:

What About Too Much Sleep

So far, we’ve established two things: Sleep is essential, and going without sleep can eventually cause some pretty nasty side effects.

But it may surprise you to learn you actually can have too much of a good thing. While sleeping too much usually isn’t life threatening, it’s been associated with a higher mortality rate.

Chronic oversleeping can also cause:

  • cognitive impairment, including problems with reasoning and speaking
  • daytime drowsiness
  • feelings of or low mood
  • trouble falling or staying asleep

A 2014 study of 24,671 adults found evidence to link sleeping more than 10 hours a night, or long sleeping, to depression and . Long sleeping has also been associated with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Not Sleeping Causes Weight Gain

Have you ever noticed that you crave sweets and salty foods when you haven’t slept? That’s because junk food cravings increase when we haven’t slept. There are a couple of reasons why this happens.

A lack of sleep hinders our decision-making ability. When we haven’t slept, the reward areas in our brains are more easily triggered, as well.

With all these factors working together, we’re more likely to go for junk food when we’re tired. Plus, when you’re depleted of energy, you’re less motivated to work out.

Weight gain puts you at risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It can also put you at risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

A short bout of insomnia likely won’t cause significant weight gain. But over time, the scale will start to increase as chronic insomnia wrecks havoc on your health.

Sleepy People Are More Easily Distracted / Shutterstock

“Attention tasks appear to be particularly sensitive to sleep loss,” researchers noted.

If you want to stay alert and attentive, sleep is a requirement. Otherwise, you enter “an unstable state that fluctuates within seconds and that cannot be characterized as either fully awake or asleep,” researchers said. In that state, your ability to pay attention is variable at best.

Being Sleepy Makes It Harder To Learn And Disrupts Short

Are You Sleeping Enough? Try These 13 Sleep Hacks

Sleepiness has long been a problem for students. Delaying school start times an hour for middle-school kids has been found to significantly increase standardized test scores, and it may have an even bigger effect on teens, who naturally tend to be night owls.

But it’s not just kids — sleep deprivation also wrecks adults’ short-term memory. Several studies have found that sleep-deprived adults have more difficulty remembering words they’ve learned and have a harder time improving newly learned skills.

Tiredness Leads To Gastrointestinal Issues

Regular sleep loss makes you more likely to develop both inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, which affects an estimated 10-15% of people in North America. Patients with Crohn’s disease have been found to be twice as likely to experience a relapse when they don’t get enough sleep.

Certain Sleep Disorders Can Kill You

Can you die from lack of sleep?

Not exactly. But in extremely rare cases, fatal familial insomnia can kill you.

This rare type of insomnia causes mutations in the brain. These mutations alter the brain over time and cause panic attacks and rapid weight loss. It progresses into dementia, and eventually, death.

If you’re currently experiencing a bout of insomnia, there’s likely no reason to panic. Fatal familial insomnia is rare and genetic. If anyone in your family has had it or other degenerative brain disorders, talk to your doctor.

Are you constantly fatigued during the day even though you’re getting enough sleep? Do you ever snore so loudly that you wake yourself up in the middle of the night? 

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes shallow breathing and pauses in breath. It can interfere with your quality of sleep and lead to poor performance in work or school. You can find out more about sleep apnea and how it may be affecting your body’s ability to rest properly.

How Long A Person Should Sleep

Age Group
14 – 17 hours a day
12 MonthsAlmost 10 hours at night with the addition of 4-hour naps
2 YearsAlmost 11 – 12 hours at night with an addition of 1 – 2 hours of afternoon nap
3 to 5 Years
Adults7 to 9 hours

The amount of sleep required varies from different age groups to different individuals. Some people only need a few hours of sleep whereas some others need an extended period of sleep. Since sleep is a basic human need, an individual should sleep at least a few hours every day for the human body to function seamlessly

Age is not the only factor that needs to be considered for a good sleep. Many other features should also be considered example:


Pregnant ladies need more sleep as compared to regular ladies. This is because the bodily changes that happen in their body demand extra hours of sleep


Old people tend to have more nap times. This is because their bodily functions are slow as compared to young adults. Hence, they require more short naps to make up lost energy.

Sleep Deprivation

An individual who has lost sleep because of his tiring work or any other factors, requires more than their regular hours of sleep. This is to ensure they have a good sleep to wake up rejuvenated.

Quality of Sleep

The quality of sleep is as important as the quantity of sleep. An individual who has irregular sleep with irregular patterns tends to have a rough day. Every individual should sleep comfortably in a suitable environment to get a perfect sleep.

Make Your Bedroom As Comfortable As You Can

A soothing sleeping environment can help you get to sleep more easily. Follow these tips:

  • Keep your room cool to sleep better.
  • Layer your blankets so they can be easily removed and added back if needed.
  • Choose a comfortable mattress and pillows, but avoid cluttering the bed with pillows.
  • Hang curtains or light-canceling blinds in order to block light.
  • Use a fan for white noise if you live in an apartment or have noisy roommates.
  • Invest in quality sheets and blankets.

The Impacts Of Sleep Deprivation

Since the late 1800s, studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause significant harm to an organism. Research in dogs showed that chronic sleep deprivation led to death in a matter of days. Though the outcome was clear, the mechanism was not.

Over the past decades, the field of sleep research has blossomed, but there are many mysteries that remain to be solved. It seems that new studies make a splash on a nearly weekly basis. It is important to understand these papers in the context of the broader scientific literature. This may not always be easy, especially when the language used seems at times indecipherable. Take a moment to review some of these research findings and consider what meaning can be derived.

Can You Die From Lack Of Sleep 7 Facts You Need To Know

Going days without sleep will eventually leave the strongest of night owls wondering:

“Can you die from lack of sleep?” 

Everyone experiences sleeplessness at some point. Who hasn’t attempted to pull an all-nighter during slumber parties or in college? Chances are you’ve laid awake at night tossing and turning a handful of times.

But when does constant sleeplessness become a serious problem? What kinds of health issues can eventually arise? Here are seven facts you need to know.

You Can Treat Your Insomnia

Is chronic insomnia leaving you desperate for a solution? There are a number of possibilities as to why you’re struggling to sleep.

Not only can drinking too much caffeine interfere with your sleep. Drinking caffeine too late in the day may be keeping you up at night.

Are you stressed? To help you unwind before bed, try a hot bath or gentle yoga. Talking to a therapist or taking some time off work may also help.

The bright light from your phone can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Before going to bed, turn off all electronics. 

Old remedies can induce sleepiness. Try drinking herbal tea earlier in the evening or after dinner. Applying lavender essential oil before bed can also help.

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol will not help you fall asleep faster. Even if you are able to fall asleep after drinking, alcohol can lower your quality of sleep.

If your insomnia doesn’t improve, talk to your doctor. They may recommend melatonin or other herbal remedies. In serious cases, your doctor may prescribe sleep medication.

Sleep And Coronary Heart Disease

Not Getting Enough Sleep? 5 Reasons Why You Should Sleep More

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leading cause of death in the United States

Research has found that sleep deprivation contributes to atherosclerosis. Plaque forms as a consequence of inflammation, which involves white blood cells, which are produced by the immune system, to collect in the arteries. Poor sleep triggers chronic inflammation, which contributes to plaque formation and hardening of the arteries.

The impact of sleep deprivation on coronary heart disease is also believed to be influenced by sleep’s effects on blood pressure. Hypertension strains the arteries, making them less effective at bringing blood to the heart and as a result contributing to heart disease.

Eleven Days Without Sleep

The short-term consequences of sleeplessness came to light in 1964 in a now-famous event in which American high school student Randy Gardner kept himself awake for 11 days and 25 minutes.

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When he finally slept, he did so for just 14 hours and 40 minutes, then woke up naturally, stayed awake for 24 hours and then slept a normal eight hours.

“This kid showed that you can stay awake a long time and it’s not fatal,” Dr Marshall says.

“I mean, I’m not recommending it — he was a special case and he had experts supervising him — but it’s not fatal; he just slept for 14 hours.”

However, Dr Marshall points out that the effect of Randy’s experiment on his health was not examined in any detail.

How To Cure Insomnia

Insomnia is not an easily curable disorder. You can certainly cure the symptoms, which is a lack of sleep, but that’s not getting to the root of the issue. It’s akin to treating depression with a few happy pills. It might chemically alter the mood and make the patient’s issue go away, but in doing so it’s not attacking the root of the problem and there is also a risk of addiction .

The important thing to remember about insomnia is that it is either long-term and caused by a deep-seated psychological issue, or it’s a short-term thing caused by something seemingly insignificant.

Make The Most Of The Day

Getting frequent sunlight exposure during the day supports a healthy circadian rhythm that helps you be alert during the day and sleepy at night. Regular physical activity can also contribute to a normal sleep schedule, so try to engage in at least moderate exercise every day.

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Can You Survive Without Sleep

If you do not get the amount of sleep you need, even for one night, you might begin to experience the effects of sleep deprivation.

Inadequate sleep causes problems that can include:

  • Slow physical and mental reaction time
  • Jitteriness

Usually, after getting enough restful sleep for one or two nights, these problems go away.

Discussing Cases Of Death By Sleep Deprivation

Let’s take a look at some of the better-known reports of death by sleep deprivation that have been reported over the years. 

In 2012, a football fan in China apparently died of exhaustion after he stayed up for 11 full nights to watch every game in the Euro 2012 championship. 

That same issue happened again when a different fan stayed up to watch the World Cup for several days. 

These cases show us that some people are very dedicated to their favourite sports. However, they don’t prove that you can die from sleep deprivation. 

In both cases, the cause of the death wasn’t as clear-cut as you might think. In the first case, the man was thought to have died from a number of things, including exposure to alcohol and tobacco. 

In the second case, the doctors said that the man had possibly had a heart attack. 

While it’s true in both of these cases that the sleep deprivation likely made the other symptoms more fatal, it didn’t cause death on its own. 

There’s only one case in which experts agree that a lack of sleep might be fatal — and that’s in instances of fatal familial insomnia

FFI is a very rare sleep disorder which is caused by an inherited disease of the brain. People with this condition progress from periods of insomnia, into dementia, often within about a year and a half. 

The disease is degenerative to the brain and affects body regulation functions like heart rate and temperature management. Even here, it’s not insomnia alone that leads to death. 

Symptoms Of Severe Sleep Deprivation

Severe sleep deprivation can make you feel like you’re in an alternate reality.

Though lack of sleep won’t kill you directly, you might feel like you’re on your way out if you’re experiencing severe sleep deprivation. If you stay up for more than 48 hours on end, you’ll likely battle intense physical and mental symptoms, including:

  • Memory loss 
  • Inability to focus on normal daily tasks 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Getting tongue-tied 
  • Physical illness

If you can’t fall asleep and are experiencing symptoms similar to the above, contact a doctor right away. By that point, your risk of accidents is high and it’s best to stay safe by having someone else drive you to a medical facility.

How Long Can You Go Without Sleep Before You Die

As you probably understood from the question “can you die from lack of sleep?”, it’s unclear how long you could go without sleep before you die because it hasn’t happened yet. 

However, we still asked this question to different health specialists. Jason Piper provided us with research under which people managed to stay awake for 8-10 days. However, he claims that under normal circumstances people would fall asleep way faster, unless they had someone waking them up constantly.

Certified sleep science and nutrition coach explains:“You hear about in extreme times people staying awake for a few days running off of and The longer a person stays awake the more their reaction time, cognition, and motor skills decline. A period of sleeplessness probably won’t cause any serious health risks. The problem arises when the sleeplessness is chronic over a period of time.”

He also states that our body repairs itself at night, so if you keep skipping sleep, small repairs can turn into major repairs and never get fixed. That’s why society is experiencing a rise in diabetes, heart disease, and cancer – we’re not giving our bodies enough rest. 

Dr. Lina Velikova, a medical advisor at also agrees that it’s unclear how long people could go without sleep, however, since we start to hallucinate after about 3 days without sleep, it can already indicate a threat to our health.

How Long Does It Take To Die From Lack Of Sleep

8 Questions to Ask Before Taking Sleeping Pills for ...

There have been some sleep experiments where people have stayed awake for hundreds of hours. They suffered hallucinations, anger issues, and confusion. There are other rare cases where people have inexplicably been unable to sleep and died after 6 months of no sleep. This rare disease is Fatal Familial Insomnia . 

Can You Actually Die From A Lack Of Sleep Here’s What Science Says


Today, Randy Gardner is alive and well at 68 years of age, in spite of staying awake for more than 264 hours straight back when he was just 17.

Not only did he set a record for sleep deprivation, Gardner showed you can miss out on shut-eye for more than a week and still not risk an early grave. But before brewing a pot of extra strong coffee, there are a few things you ought to know first.

Forget nightmare-inducing creepy-pasta memes about secret Russian experiments; there is zero evidence that you can die from a lack of sleep.

While longer episodes of sleep deprivation have been noted in individuals , Gardner’s 11-day marathon has remained notable for its level of scientific scrutiny.

On learning about the school science experiment, Stanford University psychiatrist William C. Dement took the rare opportunity to observe and record Gardner’s brain waves throughout the ordeal.

As you might expect, things weren’t all clear sailing for the subject.

After three days, Gardner was getting moody and losing coordination. Bit by bit his senses were being affected, including his smell.

Follow-up analyses of Gardner’s brain activity found he wasn’t quite as fully awake as it appeared, with various parts of the brain shutting down for a siesta from time to time.

While it wasn’t a pleasant experience, there is nothing to suggest Gardner’s long-term health was in danger.

Similar experiments on rats have also shown that a lack of sleep can be deadly.

You Need Sleep For Muscles To Get Stronger Without It Muscle Atrophy Occurs

Lack of sleep causes hormonal changes that make it harder for your body to build muscle and heal. This makes it more difficult to recover from muscle damage caused by exercise, and it worsens conditions related to muscle atrophy.

Other research has found that the reverse is also true — that during sleep, your body releases growth hormone and heals damage. That’s why fitness advocates will always point out that sleep is an essential part of getting in shape.

So It’s No Surprise That Sleepiness Makes People Clumsier

Most people notice that when they’re sleepy, they’re not at the top of their game. One study found that one sleepless night contributed to a 20-32% increase in the number of errors made by surgeons. People playing sports that require precision — like shooting, sailing, or cycling — also make more mistakes when they’ve been awake for extended periods.

Can Sleep Deprivation Work For Torture

We’re sorry to say that all of the sleep deprivation studies conducted over the years haven’t necessarily been used for ethical reasons. 

Some scientists have also used sleep deprivation experiments to determine whether a bout of sleep deprivation could be used to torture a human being. Lack of sleep has regularly been used to extract information from prisoners. 

Techniques include constantly moving captives around so that they can’t relax. Some guards also allowed prisoners to fall asleep for seconds, only to immediately wake them up again. 

In 2005, the CIA admitted to using up to 180 hours of continuous deprivation from sleep as part of an interrogation technique. That means you spend more than a week without sleep. 

The United Nations actually criticized the US for using this form of torture. 

Of course, the US isn’t the only country to rely on sleep deprivation for extracting information. One article produced by the New York Times found that the military adopted this technique after training their own people to cope with Russian torture

What Are The Consequences Of Sleep Deprivation

The effects of sleep deprivation and sleep deficiency can be serious and far-reaching.

Acute sleep deprivation raises the risk of unintentional errors and accidents. Drowsy driving, which involves slowed reaction time and the risk of microsleeps, can be life-threatening. People who are sleep deprived are more likely to struggle in school and work settings or to experience mood changes that may affect personal relationships.

Chronic sleep deprivation can contribute to a wide range of health problems. Sleep plays a fundamental role in the effective functioning of nearly all systems of the body, so a persistent lack of sleep creates significant risks to physical and mental health:

Given these diverse and important impacts of sleep deprivation, it comes as no surprise that studies have found insufficient sleep to be tied with a greater overall risk of death as well as a lower quality of life.

On a society-wide level, the impacts of sleep deprivation are enormous. The CDC estimates that as many as 6,000 deaths each year are caused by drowsy driving, and sleep deprivation has been calculated to incur hundreds of billions in added healthcare costs as well as over $400B in productivity losses per year in the United States alone.

Your Gadgets Are Killing You

    The New York Times reported that studies have found a compelling link between the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone produced by the body in the low-light hours of evening and nighttime, and our increased exposure to blue-spectrum light waves produced by both energy-efficient light bulbs and electronic gadgets. It’s widely believed that humans sleep less now than they ever have before, but now scientists have found that our very ability to sleep is being jeopardized by all the blue light that we are exposed to every day.

    Although electric lights have kept us up long past dark for over a century, only recently have we moved away from primarily incandescent light, which has more red-spectrum light waves in it than energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights. And while all kinds of late-night light can make it harder for us to sleep, it’s the blue-spectrum waves that seem to have the most intense impact on our body’s ability to produce sleep-regulating melatonin. This means not only less sleep but a higher risk of sleep deprivation for some people, which can be life-threatening. But now there’s a software program called that can change that. F.lux correlates your computer’s glow to the time of day, so that at night, you see a warm, soft night instead of the usual harsh glow. The best part of the program? It’s free.

    How To Improve Your Sleep

    If you aren’t getting enough sleep, there are many things you can do to get better sleep. The approach is dependent on the cause. You might already know why you aren’t getting enough sleep, or you may need to speak to a healthcare professional about it.

    For example, many people have habits that keep them awake. For example, staying up late on social media will result in exhaustion, possibly napping during the day, and then staying up late again. Regulating your schedule could be the solution.

    Work and family responsibilities are other causes of sleep deprivation. Consider talking to your doctor about whether you should see a therapist to work on adjusting your priorities so you can get better rest.

    Medical and psychological problems, such as pain, sleep apnea, depression, and more will require treatment and guidance from a health care professional.

    Research has led to important safety regulations when it comes to work-related sleep deprivation, especially with long-haul truck drivers. For shift workers, sleep patterns should be adjusted so that sleep and wake times are consistent.

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