Some people tolerate the lack of sleep better, and some can “barely survive a day” without it. The same goes for how much sleep is actually needed for our body to function properly – while for some five or six hours are more than enough others need even more than eight. The quality of your sleep is also important.
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But have you ever questioned yourself what would happen if you are not getting enough sleep constantly, or how long could you stay awake at the longest?
In 1965, a 17-year-old high school student, Randy Gardner, remained awake about 264 hours (11 days) to see what would happen. On the second day his eyes stopped focusing, and then he lost his ability to identify objects by touch. On the third day he was moody and uncoordinated. By the end of the experiment, he struggled to concentrate, had troubles with short–term memory, he became paranoid and began to hallucinate.
Although he recovered without long-term psychological damage, for others, lack of sleep can cause hormonal imbalance, illness, and in extreme cases death. In 2015, lack of sleep has been declared a serious health problem.
It has been proved that adults need 7-8 hour sleep a night, and adolescents need about 10. We become sleepy because your body sends signals to our brain that we are tired, and signals from the environment telling us that it is dark outside. The rise in sleep-inducing chemicals like melatonin and adenosine sends us to sleep, making our heart rate and breathing slow down, and our muscles relax. Thus our bodies replenish themselves for the day ahead.
When we lose sleep, learning, memory, mood and reaction time are affected. It may also cause inflammation, hallucinations and high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Not getting enough sleep increases stroke risk by 4.5 times. Insomnia within months or years leads to dementia and death.
This is because of the accumulation of waste products in the brain. If they are not cleared away they overload the brain and are believed to lead to the many negative symptoms of sleep deprivation. When we sleep the glymphatic system cleans up our brain, so we are ready for the next day.
Many studies show that lack of sleep has become a “modern disease” because people are getting less and less sleep and they suffer from chronic insomnia more than in the past. In the US 30 % of adults and 66% of adolescents are regularly sleep-deprived. Scientists believe that this is associated with excess of toxic and bad stuff that burden the brain, thus reducing its ability to recognize the usual signals – “it is dark and it is time to go to sleep.” This it is encouraged by the fact that many of us use a laptop or mobile phone at bedtime, thus preventing our brain to react to the dark naturally and it tells the body that it is still day.
So what will actually happen if you stop sleeping now?
After your first sleepless night your mesolimbic system become stimulated and dopamine runs rampant. And this may actually trigger some extra energy, motivation, positivity and sex drive. But it is a slippery slope. After that stage your brains starts shutting off the regions responsible for planning and making decisions leading to more impulsive behavior. That will result in slower reaction time and reduced perceptual and cognitive functions. After two days, the body loses its ability to properly metabolizes glucose and the immune system stops working as well. The third day leads to hallucinations.
So do not deprive yourself from sleep. If you have to stay awake, do it for 2 days at most. Your health is more important than your annual exam or your work.
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