Sleep deprivation can cause such serious health problems that some consider it unethical to conduct experiments in which participants are deprived of it. Preventing prisoners or prisoners from sleeping, for example, is considered cruel torture. Despite this, scientists are trying to study how long the average person can stay awake and not suffer the health consequences of this state of affairs.
The longest fully documented time that a healthy person has gone without sleep is 11 days and 25 minutes, according to livescience.com. This “record” was established in 1963 by then 17-year-old Randy Gardner as part of a scientific project in a California high school. There were those who claimed to have survived longer periods – such as Robert McDonald’s 18 days and nearly 22 hours in 1986 – but these attempts were not monitored as closely and under medical supervision as Gardner’s. Due to the growing awareness of the great dangers of prolonged sleep deprivation, in 1997 the Guinness Book of Records committee stopped accepting applications from people wishing to break the record in this field.
Insomnia – how to treat, how to sleep better. About chronic insomnia and sleep hygiene read in Joanna Górnikowska’s report “Life in constant fear: will I fall asleep?”
Research on the effects of extreme, long-term sleep deprivation is hampered by the fact that in many cases it is considered unethical to conduct such experiments, even on volunteers. Sleep deprivation, for example, of prisoners or prisoners is considered cruel torture.
Between waking and dreaming
As emphasized by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insufficient sleep carries the risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. As experts of this US federal agency recommend, the proper duration of continuous sleep for an adult should be six to eight hours at regular daily intervals.
Of course, everyone has occasional sleepless nights, but Dr. Oren Cohen, a sleep medicine specialist at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, points out that after about a day without sleep, it can be difficult to distinguish between wakefulness and sleep. Simply put, a person thinks he is awake, while his brain activity signals that he is on the verge of sleep. As the researcher adds, this condition is called sleep intrusion or microsleep.
“I find it hard to believe that someone can stay awake for more than 24 hours without having these episodes,” says Cohen.
– Sleep takes over, the brain inevitably falls asleep. If a human tells us, “I haven’t slept in a week,” that’s practically impossible, agrees Dr. Alon Avidan, who runs the Center for Sleep Disorders at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Another sleepless hours – what is happening in our body
Research conducted in 2019 – the results were published in the journal “Nature and Science of Sleep” – showed that alertness and focus can remain unchanged for 16 hours without sleep. After that, however, attention and concentration deteriorate drastically, especially in people suffering from chronic insomnia.
Another study – from 2000 – proved that staying awake for 24 hours reduces hand-eye coordination as much as alcohol in the blood. Also, the reaction time of the study participants was prolonged, decision-making skills – impaired, memory and attention – poorer. The functioning of individual senses was also disturbed.
According to the Cleveland Clinic – a non-profit academic medical center – after 36 hours without sleep, a person can experience hormonal imbalances, slow metabolism and problems with blood pressure. Researchers have also observed that after 72 hours of insomnia, anxiety, depression and even hallucinations appear.
Lack of sleep and problems at work
There is evidence that sleep disturbance contributes to increased burnout, more mistakes at work and more impulsiveness in stressful situations in the workplace. In the group that is particularly vulnerable to the consequences of the lack of a proper portion of sleep, there are those who work at variable times, because their circadian rhythm is seriously and constantly disturbed. They often fall asleep during the day, which interferes with the normal sleep-wake cycle.
As Dr. Alon Avidan points out, those who do not get enough sleep incur a kind of debt. According to the scientist, it takes a full eight hours of sleep to make up for one hour of lost sleep.
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