Sunday, June 16, 2024

What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

With the boundaries of work life and personal life getting blurrier, it’s important not to mix sleep time with work or socials. Our quality sleep is a crucial factor directly determining our quality of life. Poor sleeping habits can in fact easily lead to poor quality of life. The current lifestyle demands some professionals across industries like healthcare, security, and IT to work at night causing a shift in their natural sleep cycle. Moreover, some of us also tend to stay up late leading to prolonged sleep deprivation, which can be full of alarming side effects. But what exactly happens to our brain and body when we don’t get enough sleep? If we don’t get sufficient sleep, the next day we become tired and cranky, and our brain has trouble focusing on anything.

Turns out that we need to complete our sleep cycle in order for our brains to function properly. Sleep deprivation can cause serious long-term health problems, including memory loss, diabetes, and decreased immunity. Getting a good night’s sleep can be overlooked by many of us, only to realize how much it can affect us both physically and mentally.

To understand if we get sufficient sleep every day, we should first know how much sleep do we actually need.

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How much sleep do we actually need?


Most people need between 7-8.5 hours of sleep each night. But what happens when you don’t get enough sleep? You might be able to function with just 3 or 4 hours a night, but that’s not a sustainable way to live.

One study found that people who sleep for less than 5 hours are at risk of developing chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Sleep deprivation can have a cascading effect on your health and your life. Poor sleep can affect your health in a myriad of ways, from weight gain to depression and anxiety, to lack of concentration or memory loss. And those are just the physical effects!

In the long run, poor sleep affects everything from your brainpower and creativity at work, to how well you connect with people emotionally.

What Happens Due To Lack of Sleep?

Studies have shown that lack of sleep can have a detrimental effect on the brain. When we don’t get enough sleep, our brain produces less serotonin and is more prone to stress, anxiety, and depression. In the long run, it can also affect our memory and cause weight gain.

Sleep deprivation has been linked with everything from diabetes to heart disease to depression.

Studies have also shown that lack of sleep can lead to a decline in cognitive functioning that impacts memory and learning abilities. It can also increase a person’s risk for obesity because it reduces activity in the body’s energy-burning region.

In order for your brain to be able to function properly when you wake up, you need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.

Missing sleep can interfere with your ability to think clearly, process information, and make decisions. The negative effects of not getting enough sleep can be huge for individuals and their families.

No one feels like they are getting enough sleep during the week. The idea of an eight-hour night seems like a faraway dream for many individuals. There are ways to combat this though! Here I will go over some tips on how to improve your sleeping habits so you can feel better about yourself and the people around you!

Shocking Facts About Sleep Deprivation

  • The average duration of sleep is significantly by generation. The average sleep duration was 7.9 hours in 1942 which has come down to 6.8 hours.
  • 20% of teenagers are sleeping late and tend to get less than 5 hours of good quality sleep with the average sleep duration being 6.5 hours.
  • Over 100 thousand deaths can be attributed to sleep deprivation errors.
  • A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that sleep deprivation is more common among single, divorced/separated people, compared to married couples.
  • A Harvard Public Health study found that 3 to 5% of obesity caused among adults is due to sleep deprivation.

Do You Suffer From Insomnia or Sleep Deprivation?

While insomnia and sleep deprivation may refer to getting insufficient sleep, sleep deprivation is caused due to lifestyle obligations like a night shift job, work culture, or schoolwork. On the other hand, insomnia is the inability to fall asleep even though you have ample time to do so.

What happens When You’re Sleep Deprived For 48 Hours?


Insufficient sleep causes tiredness, irritability, and lack of focus. When we don’t sleep enough, our brains are programmed to microsleep. These are short sleep cycles that occur during the day when we don’t intend to sleep.

For example, falling asleep during a class without the insertion to sleep is the brain going into forced microsleeps to compensate for the sleep duration missed the previous night.

  • Fatigue
  • Lack of focus
  • Anger or irritability
  • Poor cognitive performance
  • Weakened immune system
  • Light hallucinations
  • Increased negative emotions

What happens If You Don’t Sleep For 4 Days?

After 4 days of not sleeping enough, our perception of reality can get severely distorted and the urge to sleep can become unstoppable.

At such times, our body can also experience sleep deprivation psychosis, the inability to interpret reality.

  • Increased stress and anxiety
  • Extreme hallucinations
  • Lack of cognitive function
  • Paranoia
  • Sleep-related death
  • Increased confusion
  • Depersonalization

Reportedly, two Chinese men died due to sleep-related deaths as a result of staying awake for 48 hours and 11 days respectively.

What happens If You Don’t Sleep For A Week?

According to NHS, after several sleepless nights, the mental effects become more serious.

  • Foggy brain
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Impaired decision making
  • Feeling down
  • Falling asleep during the day

Apart from symptoms of lack of sleep, other risks of injury and accidents at home, work, and outdoors also increase.

How To Prevent Sleep Deprivation?

Some of us think it’s normal to be sleep-deprived and compensate to stay awake beyond our body capacity by consuming energy drinks or caffeinated drinks. But addressing sleep deprivation and changing daily habits to fix the issue at hand can bring a sustainable solution.

Here are some of the things we should do to prevent being sleep deprived and its harmful long-term effects.


  • Have a good morning routine
  • Get to bed early and wake up early
  • Engage in some form of physical activity
  • Make time for self-care and wellbeing
  • Set clear boundaries at work
  • Take power naps during the day
  • Follow good sleeping habits
  • Avoid caffeine at night
  • Make sleep a priority
  • Take professional help

Concluding thoughts on what happens when you are sleep deprived,

Our sleep patterns are usually regulated by an internal clock, but can also be impacted by external factors like eating habits, work-life, stress, and anxiety, insomnia, etc. For example, the prolonged effects of sleeping late or getting 3 hours of sleep every night can have a detrimental impact on the quality of life and wellbeing.

Sleep deprivation is a major problem in this mobile-friendly modern world and its consequences are serious, to say the least. Beyond cognitive function, sleep deprivation has even been linked to serious mental health problems like depression and anxiety disorders.

Moreover, if we don’t get enough sleep, it can also have bad consequences on our relationships with people near and dear to us. Hence, we should try our best to get enough sleep every night and do what we can to educate others about the dangers of sleep deprivation.

Key Takeaways on what happens if we don’t get enough sleep

  • How much sleep do we actually need? 20 % of teenagers are sleeping late and tend to get less than 5 hours of good quality sleep with the average sleep duration being 6.5 hours. But a recommended sleep duration is around 7 to 8 hours.
  • Sleep is the fuel source for our body functions and a lack of Sleep for any amount of time is not a healthy way of living.
  • What happens When You’re Sleep Deprived For 48 Hours or more? We feel fatigued, irritability, stress, reduced concentration, and immunity, even hallucinations due to sleep deprivation.
  • How To Prevent Sleep Deprivation? By making sleep a priority and cultivating healthy habits to promote self-care and wellbeing.

FAQs About Sleep

How long can you go without sleep before hallucinating?

Sleep is essential for all vital body functions, and hence the body can fully function well without hallucinating up to 3 to 4 days of sleep deprivation, after which we start hallucinating.

What would happen if you never slept?

Well, that’s quite impossible.

How long can you go without sleep?

Well, the longest known experimental answer is 264 hours, i.e. about 11 days. In 1965, Randy Gardner, a 17-year-old high school student, set this world record for a science fair, before which the record was for 260 hours.

AlignThoughts Editorial
AlignThoughts Editorial
The editorial team at AlignThoughts includes feature writers, researchers, and subject matter experts with rich domain knowledge who are always willing to go the extra mile to deliver quality content. We strive to create meaningful content with a fresh perspective that can leave an impact on your life.

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