Have you ever thought about what would happen if you stopped sleeping? We all know what it feels like to lose sleep or try to function after a restless night: we feel exhausted, get irritated easily, and find it very difficult to concentrate properly. However, what if we stopped sleeping altogether? What would happen then? Would we turn into zombies, perhaps? I certainly hope not, but let’s take a look at what goes on in your body after certain periods without sleep.
After 24 hours
A really weird thing happens at this point. You start feeling really happy! You’re giddy, you find strange things funny, and almost anything cracks you up.
This is because your brain is trying to compensate for the lack of sleep by increasing dopamine levels. However, as you go on without sleeping beyond this point, all that happiness is unfortunately going to fade away. Your memory begins to weaken, your reaction time increases, and your parents will probably think you’re drunk.
After 48 hours
It gets worse. At this point, your immune response and your judgement become impaired. You’ll also feel nauseous and will probably have slurred or stumbling speech. In other words, your parents will be CONVINCED that you’re drunk. Worst of all, the very thing that drives us to do work: energy, is going to be almost completely sapped away. This is because your body loses the ability to metabolize glucose after this much time, so exhaustion sets in.
After 3 days
At this point, things start getting really bad. Why? One word: Hallucinations. That’s right, you actually start seeing things that aren’t there because your body is desperately trying to understand what it’s experiencing. A lack of vital chemicals and nutrients, and an exhausted mind and body do not make for a pleasant experience.
Also, all the previous effects get even worse and the body BEGINS TO SHUT DOWN. This is a sure sign that you’re on the verge of becoming a zombie, and after 3 days, you might as well be. You’ll barely be able to communicate or function like a normal human being.
The big question, of course, is how long has a person been able to survive without sleep? The answer is insanely impressive – 11 days! That’s right, not only did he manage to go that long without sleeping, but he also didn’t suffer any long-term health effects. Does that mean that you should also try this kind of stunt when you need to study for a huge test or finish a project for work? Absolutely not. The example above was definitely an extreme case and he was likely taking stimulants to help keep him awake.
As I already pointed out, the negative effects of sleep deprivation can be very dangerous, and they can appear relatively quickly. In fact, sleep deprivation studies have shown that rats who didn’t sleep for 2 weeks actually died. It has been speculated that this could be due to the stress of being woken up continuously, but sleep deprivation was certainly one of the contributing fatal factors.
In other words, do everyone a favor and get some sleep. The world doesn’t need any more zombies.
- The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Brain and Behavior – Serendip Studio’s One World (Bryn Mawr College)
- What Would Happen If You Stopped Sleeping Right Now? – Health Guidance