How Long Can You Live Without Sleep

Are you the kind of person that can pull an all-nighter without a problem? If your answer is yes, you could be risking your health if this becomes a regular pattern of your life or a habit. It might not be a big deal if done once every couple of months but not after every few days. Getting quality and adequate sleep is very important to your health.

It is unclear exactly how long human beings can survive without sleep, but the longest recorded period is 264 hours – 11 consecutive days. Randy Gardner voluntarily spent 11 consecutive days without a shut-eye, when he was 17 years old for a science fair project back in 1965. He still holds that record to this day.

Risks of Not Getting Enough Sleep

At the very least, lack of enough sleep will leave you feeling drowsy and weak. You will have an overwhelming need to sleep leaving you unable to be productive. If your body stays too long without sleep or if you suffer from chronic partial sleep deprivation (regular lack of enough sleep), you are most likely going to start experiencing long-term health complications and risks.

Lack of enough sleep can affect the immune system and put you at risk of certain health conditions such as type 2 diabetes. The effects vary in intensity according to how long a person stays without sleep.  In other words, the longer you stay without sleep, the more severe the effects that you end up experiencing. Most people will start to experience these effects after 36 consecutive hours of sleep deprivation. These will include;

  • Hallucinations and illusions – several days of no sleep can alter how you perceive things. Hallucinations and illusions can kick in after only three or four days. Hallucinations occur when you start seeing things that are not there, while illusions occur when you misinterpret something that is real. For example, one might think an object such as a post is a person or an animal.
  • Irritation – a study showed that lack of sleep affected how people process emotions. Sleep deprived individuals became highly irritable, experienced anxiety, and some even became paranoid. This led to unstable mood swings and in some cases, depression.
  • Cognitive impairment – the ability to acquire and process knowledge and understanding through thought and the senses become impaired. The ability to perform executive functions becomes significantly limited. For instance, a simple task such as speaking or differentiating between happy and angry voices or expressions becomes difficult after a few days of sleep deprivation. This can result in decreased performance at work or at school.
  • Losing concentration – together with becoming cognitively impaired, one loses the ability to concentrate even on the simplest of tasks. One can barely carry out or a see a simple task to completion and may end up making really poor decisions. Thirst can aggravate this situation by causing grogginess, making it very hard to concentrate.
  • Injury prone individuals –since our minds and bodies undergo regeneration of cells during sleep, lack of sleep may result in injury prone individuals. One becomes exceedingly unable to stay alert and this leaves them vulnerable to injury at work and/or accidents while driving a vehicle or operating any machinery. Such a person becomes a danger to themselves and at the same time puts others at risk of getting hurt or even death.
  • Reduces immunity – sleep deprivation might lead to health complications in the long run. Conditions such as type 2 diabetes (mentioned earlier), high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and mental illness are reported in higher numbers among sleep-deprived individuals.

Benefits of Sleep

They say that too much of something is poisonous and in this case, too little of it isn’t good either. Too much sleep (above 9 hours each night), or too little (less than 6 hours a night) can have serious complications to your health and general productivity.

The average adult requires between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep isn`t just good for you, it is an essential need. Among many reasons, studies have shown that sleeping is beneficial because it helps you;

  • To reduce stress and puts you in a good mood
  • To lower blood pressure
  • Improves your memory and making you smarter
  • Keep your heart healthy and lowers chances of getting type 2 diabetes
  • Fight infections and weight gain

What causes us not to get the adequate or quality sleep that our bodies require? The reasons vary from sleep disorders such as chronic insomnia and sleep apnea (which causes disrupted sleep) to poor lifestyle choices and decisions such as eating too close to bedtime, consumption of caffeine late in the day or use of alcohol and other drugs.

Can you die from lack of sleep? Numerous studies have been done on topics concerning sleep including the effects of sleep deprivation. Studies have been conducted on animals and revealed that it is indeed possible to die from sleep deprivation. If you are doing it out of necessity, talk to our doctor in order to know how best to go about it without affecting your health.


Adequate and quality sleep is paramount to our wellbeing and proper functioning and that’s why it’s important that we treat it with the respect it deserves. If you have lifestyle changes that you need to make, do it now before it is too late. Do not deny your body this much-needed commodity for it is an essential need for your health. Talk to your doctor or see a sleep specialist if you suffer from any sleep disorders so that you can lead a healthy and productive life.