Sleep deprivation: How long can you last?
In 1964, an American high school student named Randy Gardner recorded the longest sleep deprivation officially documented in history. The then 17-year old man was able to withstand 11 days and 25 minutes of no sleep. After this feat, there were no reported long-term ill effects that occurred to the titleholder, but, not long after, Guinness decided to stop any similar challenge which, they believe, could be harmful to any participant.
Sleep experts will surely not recommend you to do the same as it may not only disrupt your regular sleeping pattern but may also result in adverse conditions. However, people live in a fast pacing world, and staying awake to fulfill some responsibilities may be the only option at times. Today, we will talk about the possible consequences of sleep deprivation that you should be aware of.
How much sleep do I need to get everyday?
Health professionals recommend at least seven hours of sleep each night for people aged 18-70 years old. Some people, given the nature of their occupations, can last up to a maximum of three days without sleep, but work performance and body functions are expected to decline in that period.
Some people are used to having an average of five hours of sleep every night and can manage a busy day ahead while others can get a full seven-hour sleep routine but still feel groggy at times. This means that you also need to look after the quality of the sleep you do, in correlation to its length.
What are the long-term health effects of sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation can result in multiple illnesses and health consequences.
Difficulty in concentration
Not getting enough rest and sleep will deplete your focus and concentration, as well as your problem-solving and creativity skills.
Memory loss or forgetfulness
Sleep helps your brain process and remember certain information. This is why it is better to review your study notes after getting enough sleep.
Accidents and other hazards
One of the leading causes of road crashes is sleepiness while driving. Since you are groggy or drowsy, you may not be able to notice certain dangers in your environment. You can also fall asleep involuntarily which is very risky especially in hazard-prone areas.
Not having enough sleep will weaken your immune system’s response to viruses and bacteria, which will make you more susceptible to diseases.
Decrease in Sex Drive
If you are trying to conceive or just want to have a healthy sexual relationship with your partner, then it’s best for you to get enough sleep at night. Lack of sleep can result in lower testosterone levels in men or a decrease in libido for both sexes.
High blood pressure and Heart Diseases
Those with hypertension who deprive themselves of sleep increase their chances of experiencing heart attack. This is because lack of sleep can interfere with your body’s capacity to regulate stress hormones. Chronic diseases are often linked to lack of sleep as well.
Leptin, the hormone that regulates your hunger appetite may be reduced due to lack of sleep, causing you to gain weight. Studies also show that sleep deprivation also causes you to crave more sweets and fatty food because your brain will not be able to make wise decisions on choosing what’s healthy for you.
Risk for Diabetes
Your insulin level is also affected by lack of sleep and those who usually don’t get enough sleep are at a higher risk of acquiring Type 2 Diabetes.
Perhaps you have probably experienced falling or tripping down the last time you didn’t have a good night sleep. This is brought by poor coordination which resulted from poor concentration and decline in body functions.
Studies have shown that lack of sleep can also become a cause of stress and frequent mood swings. On the other hand, it can also be a symptom of depression.
Sleepless nights can make you look older than your age. It can also affect the natural regeneration and repair of your body tissues and cells which is responsible for keeping a youthful glow.
How can I pay my sleep debts?
Even if you have accumulated many hours of lost sleep, the feeling of replenishment can still be attained if you take enough time to recover. A 24 hour sleep debt can be paid on installment by adding a few more hours of sleep each night. It is also wise to take some time off at work so your body can also regain strength from all the exhaustion it went through.
Sleep is just one portion of your overall mental and physical health but you should not take it for granted even if you feel that you can still go through a whole day of work without it.