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How Long Can You Go Without Sleep?

December 8, 2020


Sleep plays a vital role in health and well-being throughout a person’s life. Getting enough sleep at the right times is one of the best things you can do to improve your mental and physical health and recover from illness and injury. It’s also the primary way of helping young children and teens grow. Sleep is our body’s best regenerator, so it’s essential we don’t go without sleep and get the right amount of it every night.


According to the National Heart and Lung Institute, ongoing sleep deficiency (not getting enough sleep) can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.


All that begs the question, how long can a human go without sleep?


The longest recorded time without sleep is approximately 264 hours or just over 11 consecutive days. It’s held by American Randy Gardner, who completed the feat in January 1964, surrounded by professional sleep researchers in a controlled and monitored environment.


By the seventh day, Gardner was suffering from paranoia and was unable to complete basic math problems.


It’s unclear exactly how long humans can survive without sleep, but we know it isn’t long before sleep deprivation signs become apparent.


After 24 hours Without Sleep


According to some researchers, after 24 hours without sleep, your body enters the same stage it would be in if you were drunk. 24 hours of wakefulness compares to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent, above the legal limit to drive in most states.


Other symptoms include:


  • drowsiness
  • irritability
  • impaired decision-making
  • impaired judgment
  • altered perception
  • memory deficits
  • vision and hearing impairments
  • decreased hand-eye coordination
  • increased muscle tension
  • tremors
  • increased risk of accidents or near misses


It’s not uncommon for people to go 24 hours without sleep, especially in college, when students try to cram in a night’s study before an exam. But thankfully, these symptoms will go away after a good night’s sleep for most.


After 48 hours Without Sleep


After two nights without sleep, most people will find it extremely difficult to stay awake. According to Healthline, a person may even incur periods of microsleep, where their body shuts down involuntarily for 30 seconds. During these microsleep periods, the brain is in a sleeplike state, leaving a person dazed and confused when they reawake.


A body’s immune system is also likely to weaken after 48 hours without sleep. Research has shown that natural killer (NK) cell activity decreases with sleep deprivation. NK cells respond to immediate threats to your health, such as viruses or bacteria.


After 72 hours Without Sleep


After 72 sleepless hours, many have a chronic urge to go to sleep and struggle to stay awake independently. Going three days without rest will severely limit a person’s ability to perform even the simplest tasks. You will struggle to concentrate, memorize, congregate basic sentences, and perform simple puzzles.


A person’s ability to read emotions is hampered, with many unable to recognize the differences between happy and angry faces after 72 hours without sleep. Hallucinations are also common, with sleep deprivation affecting perception.



Sleep Deprivation In US Troops


Like all other adults, soldiers should ideally get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Sleep.org argues US army guidelines had previously suggested only half that amount but revised its recommendations in 2010 because of concerns about sleep-deprived soldiers in combat.


In combat, it isn’t always feasible for our troops to have that much shut-eye. But it’s worth remembering the symptoms after just 24 hours without sleep and how they could impair one of our patriots on the front line.


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How Advanced Homecare Helps Troops


At Advanced Homecare Online, we’re proud to support the brave men and women who protect our country. For military members with sleep apnea, we provide a vital PAP machine that doesn’t take up precious cargo space.


Being an active duty service member means a lot of travel. Being an active duty service member with sleep apnea means a lot of travel with a bulky, full-sized PAP machine.


Please click here and fill out our contact form to find out if you qualify to receive a TravelPAP machine with no out of pocket cost to you! 

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