It is said that we can live for 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. 

But when it comes to living without sleep, the answer is not so straightforward.

It is estimated that sleep deprivation can affect up to one third of adults in the US. So getting a handle on the effect of lack of shut eye can help you get your sleep routine back in check.

What causes sleep deprivation?

It’s pretty simple to say that sleep deprivation is caused by lack of sleep. But things are a bit more complex than this. A few late nights every now and then is totally different from missing out on adequate sleep in the long-term.

Sleep deprivation is often linked to insomnia. If you suffer from insomnia you can spend hours with your head on the pillow without ever reaching dreamland. 

If you are sleep deprived, placing your head on a pillow seems like a distant memory. You literally don’t have the time to sleep.

Some reasons for this include a hectic schedule such as working shift patterns. It might also be because of lifestyle choices - sometimes finishing that series might seem more exciting than getting an early night - or you could suffer from a health condition that impairs your sleep. 

What does sleep deprivation feel like?

So how can not sleeping affect you? Sleep deprivation is a little bit more than just constant yawning. You don’t just need an early night, you feel like you need solid sleep for at least a week!

When you are sleep deprived, you have missed out on your valuable snooze time over a long period. This can affect you in a few different ways.

Sleep deprivation makes you feel:

  • Super tired during the day and wishing it was bedtime
  • Not focused and unable to concentrate
  • Confused as you can’t retain new information 
  • Like you could easily nap on the floor

When you are sleep deprived, drinking more caffeine just doesn’t cut it. 

The effects of sleep deprivation

Feeling sensitive

Yes, sleep deprivation can make you want to cry - or even actually cry. If you are not getting enough sleep you feel more sensitive than normal. So a comment that you would ordinarily brush off can cut deep and leave you on the brink of tears. 

Mood changes

Sleep deprivation puts you on an emotional rollercoaster of extremes. One minute you’re up, the next you’re down. Your brain finds it hard to regulate emotional responses so others might think you are acting out of character. You can almost guarantee that feeling snappy is gonna happen when you are tired.

Low immune system

Sleep is essential for your health. When you don’t get the recommended 7 to 9 hours, your body’s immune system can’t function properly. That means you are more likely to get poorly or catch a cold. 

Weight gain

When you don’t sleep enough, you are at risk of piling on the pounds. The hormones that control appetite get completely out of balance and you feel more hungry. You’ll be more likely to reach for the junk food and snack during the day. Combine this with feeling too tired to exercise and your body is unable to burn off these excess calories.

What happens if you stay awake for days?

After 24 hours

We’ve all pulled an all-nighter once in a while. But if you stay awake for 24 hours it can make you feel pretty out there.

If you don’t sleep for a day you will start to feel the effects of sleep deprivation. Just 24 hours without sleep can cause memory problems and difficulty concentrating. Your mind is more likely to drift off and you won’t be able to focus. Your coordination is likely to deteriorate, making you feel out of balance as well as out of sorts.

One study has compared the effects of not sleeping for 24 hours with having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10%. This means you are basically too drunk (tired) to drive. 

The symptoms of sleeplessness are similar to excessive alcohol use:

  • Irritability
  • Altered perception
  • Impaired judgement 
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Memory problems

These symptoms will disappear after a proper night’s sleep. But if you find it impossible to sleep for longer, they will get progressively worse.

After two days

So what happens if you don’t sleep for 2 days? 

After 48 hours of no sleep, your body starts to compensate with microsleeps. This is basically your body switching off and shutting down for up to half a minute. 

The problem is that you might not even be aware of this happening. This can be dangerous as your brain is unable to process any external information. If it happens during a monotonous activity like driving, it can have serious consequences.

After 3 days

Not sleeping for more than 48 hours is extreme sleep deprivation. Your brain is unable to function properly and you become increasingly disorientated. After 3 days of no sleep, your urge to sleep is intense. 

You can start to hallucinate and have delusions. Your perception of reality becomes even more distorted and you can feel disconnected from reality. Staying awake longer than 3 days can lead to sleep deprivation psychosis. At this point, getting sleep is a top priority for your mental health.

Recovering your sleep debt

Sleep debt is built up every time you don’t sleep properly at night. Although it might not feel like it, you CAN recover your sleep debt and catch up on those much-needed zzz’s. 

It won’t happen overnight, but a few simple changes can help you rest more easily at night.

Set a sleep schedule

Organise a routine that makes sleep time a priority. If you know you are going to stay up late one night, make sure you go to bed earlier the next night. 

Relax with aromatherapy

Try improving your sleep quality with aromatherapy. There are loads of benefits to using aromatherapy to help you sleep.

Avoid stimulants

Coffee during the day to keep you awake might seem appealing. But chances are it will disrupt your sleep at night. Avoiding stimulants like caffeine and nicotine will dramatically improve your ability to fall asleep when your head finally hits the pillow.

Take a nap

Taking naps during the day isn’t a long-term solution for missed sleep at night. However, a 10 to 20 minute power nap can give you a much-needed boost. Your brain will be able to process things more easily and it can ease your tiredness in the short-term. Just make sure you set a timer!

Rely on a Ripple+

A plant-powered Ripple+ Boost is the ultimate alternative to a caffeine hit. We think this is a great daytime choice for a pop of vim. Before bedtime, try a puff of the Ripple+ Dream. The lovely lavender will have you nodding off to dreamland in no time. 

Make sure you grab those zzz’s

It really is a myth that you can get used to going without sleep. Your body won’t get used to it and it is much better for your health to get some good quality snooze time.