Hmmm... Sleep, seems we can never have enough of it. In fact, sometimes, it literally feels like me, myselft, isn't getting enough. But, what if we stop sleeping altogether? Strangely, science understands relatively little about "why we sleep?" or 'how it evolved in the first place?'
Laying unconscious and dormant for hours on end. While predators lurk hardly seems advantageous or smart. However, we have discovered a few correlations.
Facts for example;
- Adults who sleep between 6 to 8 hours in night tend to live longer.
- Excessive sleep, however, can lead to medical problems including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- Similarly chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to aspects of cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression and even brain damage.
But, what if we stop sleeping right now? Well, after our sleepless night. The brain system becomes stimulated and dopamine runs rampant. This may actually trigger some extra energy, motivation, positivity and even sex drive. Sounds appealing!
But, it's a slippery slope! Human brain slowly begins to shut off the regions responsible for planning and evaluating decisions. Leading to more impulsive behavior.
Once exhaustion sets in, you'll find yourself with slower reaction times, reduced perceptual and cognitive functions.
After a day or two of no sleep. The body loses its ability to properly metabolize glucose. The immune system stops working as well. In some cases, three days of no sleep has led to hallucinations.
Do you care about how you look? Studies have shown a direct correlation between sleep deprivation and a person's perceived beauty. That is to say, sleep-deprived individuals appeared less healthy and less attractive than when they were well-rested.
The longest scientifically documented case of being awake was 264 hours or 11 days.
While they did develop problems with concentration, perception, and irritability. The surprising truth is that they suffered no serious long-term health effects. In fact, no individuals under these documented conditions experienced medical, physiological neurological, or psychiatric problems.
However, there are limited studies and this doesn't mean permanent damage couldn't be inflicted with more time.
Sleep deprivation experiments on rats, for example, generally lead to death after about two weeks. But scientists aren't totally sure if they're dying from the lack of sleep or from the stress of constantly being woken up.
Perhaps, we should look at fatal familial insomnia for an answer. Insomia is a rare genetic disease of the brain which causes progressively worsening. Insomnia or sleeplessness leading to hallucinations, dementia and ultimately death.
This disease is only affected around 100 people in the world. But the average survival span was around 18 months. Overtime, the lack of sleep becomes worse and the body's organs begin to shut down.
So, while lack of sleep won't necessarily kill you quickly. Continuous sleep deprivation will have a negative effect on your body. Sleep tight! But not too much.