How long can a person go without sleep?

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Robert Johnston
How long can a person go without sleep?

We all know how important good sleep is to human health. When we sleep we get a well-deserved rest for our brain and a rest for the rest of our body. It is something of vital importance and necessary for the correct functioning of both one and the other. Thus, sleep is essential for life and is the basis for many physiological and psychological functions, such as tissue repair, growth, memory consolidation, and learning. Although not all adults need the same number of hours of sleep, experts believe that sleeping less than 7 hours a night continuously can have negative consequences for the body and the brain. Anyway, in the end we all sleep differently; Some more and others less, some find it difficult to fall asleep and then wake up, others on the contrary, fall asleep quickly but wake up very early and it is not difficult for them to get up early, etc..

Certainly, we spend a large part of our lives sleeping. But there have always been people who have tried to go days without doing it, or getting very little sleep. Unfortunately, they have suffered unpleasant consequences until they have finally ended up sleeping. Do you want to know how long a person can go without sleep? There are studies carried out that answer this question scientifically.

What Happens When We Don't Get Enough Sleep?

Throughout history, different studies of sleep deprivation have been carried out and it has been observed that, depending on the intensity and frequency, lack of rest can cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Muscle pain
  • Blurry vision
  • colour blindness
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Heart problems
  • Acute migraines
  • Decreased mental activity and concentration
  • Depersonalization and derealization
  • Weakening of the immune system, especially a decrease in the number of leukocytes, as happens in stressful situations
  • Dizziness
  • Eye bags
  • Fainting
  • Mental confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Shaking of the hands and legs
  • Physical weakness
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Lack of performance
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Hyperactivity
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Impatience
  • Irritability
  • Lucid dreaming, once sleep is resumed
  • Gaps or forgetfulness
  • Sickness
  • Nystagmus
  • Psychosis
  • Pallor
  • Noticeable increase in reaction time
  • Sluggish or nonsensical vocal articulation
  • Weight loss or gain (obesity)
  • Severe yawning
  • Symptoms similar to: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and drunkenness

Swedish scientists say that lack of sleep causes brain damage, after finding a high concentration of brain molecules in the blood of volunteers who spent a whole night without sleep. Their study shows that a night of sleep deprivation can cause loss of brain tissue, which is demonstrated by the high concentrations in the blood of two brain molecules after the sleepless night. During the study, 15 men of average weight experienced a night of sleep deprivation, followed by an eight-hour night of sleep. Researchers found that blood levels of these molecules were higher in the morning after sleep deprivation, compared to the morning after a full night's rest..

Previously, other researchers at the University of Surrey found that lack of sleep can also have an impact on genes, with the consequences of a week of not getting enough rest (less than six hours of sleep each night) causing changes in more out of 700 genes, although the researchers noted that the function of each gene is not yet fully understood.

How long can a person go without sleep?

University of California Professor of Psychiatry J. Christian Gillin has done extensive research on sleep disorders, chronobiology, and humor. You have been asked this question and you have found that the answer is: 264 hours, that is, 11 days without sleep. Apparently, in 1965 a 17-year-old high school student named Randy Gardner would have set the world record for sleepless time for a job at a science fair..

There is also data on soldiers who in armed conflicts, especially during World War II, stayed awake on the battlefield for between 4 and 5 days. On the other hand, there are those who assure that the record would not belong to Randy Gardner, but to a man who remained awake for 18 days, 21 hours and 40 minutes, almost 19 days without sleep, although there is no clear evidence of this fact. It is said that this man ended up with strong hallucinations, attacks of paranoia and all kinds of psychomotor problems.

In other studies on sleep and wakefulness, participants have been able to stay awake for 8-10 days. Although none of these had suffered serious medical, physiological, psychological or psychiatric problems, all had a progressive deficit in concentration, motivation and even perception, among other difficulties in mental processes, at the same time that sleep deprivation increased. It should be noted that in all these cases, after a couple of days and a few nights of recovery from sleep, they recovered normally..

The limits of wakefulness and sleep in humans

All organisms need sleep, it is the moment in which the senses and motor functions are suspended, where a state of unconsciousness is entered and the muscles remain inactive and that moment is necessary. This momentary suspension of the complex activities that take place within the body, give it rest that prevents wear and tear and its malfunction, therefore, without sleeping, the body would end up overloading. Ignoring the importance of rest for our brain can be a serious mistake that harms our abilities, even our survival or that of others if we go out, for example, to drive without having slept..

In other living beings, such as laboratory rats, it has been found that in the second week of wakefulness, they lose their lives. Problems with sleep, such as insomnia or lethal insomnia, obviously must be treated as many times the damage can be irreparable or even fatal.

Thus, the reflection leaves no room for doubt: what we must do every day is to rest the necessary hours in order to perform well and make the correct decisions. Sleep well!


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