Adults between the ages of 18 and 60 are advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. However, almost 35% of American adults (Trusted Source) report not getting enough sleep.
The CDC recommends adults get no more than 17 hours of sleep per night. Within a 24-hour period, most people start to feel the negative impacts of sleep deprivation.
In this article, we look at the effects of sleep deprivation over a period of 72 hours and examine how long a person can go without sleep.
We also go through how much sleep a person requires and how to improve sleep hygiene, as well as the short- and long-term health impacts of sleep deprivation.
How long can a person go without sleep?
The amount of sleep that each individual needs vary with age. For instance, newborns need nearly twice as much sleep as adults do.
Uncertainty persists on how long a person can go without sleep. The current world record for a person staying without sleep is 266 hours, or a little over 11 days, according to a 2010 assessment.
In the most well-known sleep deprivation experiment, a high school student from California named Randy Gardner was able to remain up for 264 hours in 1964.
What is a lack of sleep?
When a person receives less sleep than what their body requires, they are said to be sleep deprived. Depending on the individual, sleep deprivation can have different impacts.
As their bodies and brains are still growing and developing, children and teenagers require more sleep than adults do. As a result, children sometimes experience more severe or enduring consequences from sleep deprivation.
Adults who are sleep-deprived may experience the following general signs:
- daytime drowsiness and weariness.
- memory, alertness, and attention issues.
- diminished coordination
- increased hunger.
- mood swings
Regular or ongoing sleep deprivation can also raise a person’s risk for a number of illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
24 hours without sleep
After just 24 hours, the majority of people start to feel the impacts of sleep deprivation. According to the CDCTrusted Source, having a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.10 percent and remaining awake for at least 24 hours are equivalent. Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above is prohibited in the US.
24 hours without sleep can have the following effects:
- memory and attention issues.
- diminished coordination
- faulty judgment.
- issues with short-term memory.
- elevated stress hormone levels, including cortisol and adrenaline.
- elevated sugar levels in the blood.
- a greater chance of mishaps.
- muscles are tense.
Many of these effects happen as the brain makes an effort to save energy by slipping into what medical professionals refer to as “local sleep.” The body briefly turns off neurons in some parts of the brain during local sleep but not others.
Even though a person who has entered local sleep may appear to be completely awake, their capacity for complicated tasks may drastically deteriorate.
The body’s natural sleep-wake cycle is also disturbed by lack of sleep, which has an impact on the hormones that control:
- the immune system.