If you are feeling a little tired this Monday morning, imagine how you would feel after days of not sleeping.
Laughing Squid directed us toward a video from ASAPScience that took a stab at trying to understand sleep. The video is embedded below. The reality is we don’t know enough about sleep to fully understand why we need it or how much we really need. It takes about three days for a lack of sleep to cause hallucinations, and this is also when the body starts shutting down — the immune system stops working well, meaning it’s more difficult for our body to fight off infection.
The longest anyone’s been known to go without sleep is 11 days, the video says. Supposedly that person suffered no lasting health effects. But if you are staying up that long, you are likely also taking stimulants like caffeine and energy drinks, which have their own health effects.
But, others report going much longer without sleep, weeks to months, even. Likely these people have been experiencing “microsleeps.”
They point to cases of the incredibly rare disease Fatal Familial Insomnia as an example of how long you can really go without sleep. The disease kills within about 18 months as sufferers slowly lose all ability to sleep and their organs shut down.
In the Michael Jackson trial an expert claimed that the performer had gone 60 days without REM sleep, because he had been put into a coma-like state nightly as a “treatment for his insomnia.” Charles Czeisler of Harvard Medical School testified that this lack of REM sleep would have killed Jackson soon, if an overdose of the coma-inducing Propofol hadn’t.
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