• Oshin Mittal

Do you know: What if we don't sleep?

Updated: Mar 22

We often feel that we can skip off our sleep hours. Is it fine to do so? Is it ok to be awake at night and sleep during the day? What will be the consequence if we don't sleep? Let's find it out.

Not getting enough sleep won't just make us cranky but can also kill us. The UN also considered sleep deprivation as a form of torture. The longer it lasts, the worse it gets. Losing sleep affects people differently. Just 48 hours without sleep is considered extreme sleep deprivation but we can probably get weird before that.

After 18 hours without sleep, one might feel a little drunk. Staying that wake is equivalent to the blood alcohol content(BAC) of 0.05% which is what we get after three or four drinks in a span of two hours. 24 hours of sleeplessness can rise the BAC level to 0.1% which is higher than the legal driving limit. We might feel foggy, less concentrated and uncoordinated including double or blurry vision. That's because sleep deprivation slows down our brain cell ability to communicate with each other. So if one is actually drinking alcohol, drowsiness can increase its effect while caffeine can make you alert for several hours but it will work till a certain point only. By day and a half, this could all get worse. Our chances of falling sick get higher and around this time our body and brain get so tired that one starts to feel microsleeps and then there's even the potential for hallucinations. Visual distortions are the most common ones. One could also experience sensational or auditory hallucinations things like feeling someone who's not there. Like a tap on our should or that someone's calling out our name whereas in reality its not.

Once we hit 48 hours, its a literal torture. Two days without sleep can cause one to start losing grip over reality. Hallucinations worsen and one might even undergo depersonalization. That's the feeling that reality is slipping away which may or may not include out-of-body experience. Tack on extreme anxiety, irritability, stress and fatigue. After 72 hours, one loses its ability to think. Simple tasks like getting dressed or finding a book could feel overwhelming, partly from fatigue and partly due to the inability to regulate emotions. Hallucinations could get more complexified. All of this opens the door for paranoia, depression and delusions which brings us to 96 hours or more without sleep. Say bye-bye to reality peeps. More and worse hallucinations and paranoia could lead to sleep-deprivation psychosis which is a total snap from reality. Now, the fifth day is sometimes called the turning point. This is the danger zone. Our mental health takes a sharp decline, cementing our delusions as our new reality. Eventually, our brain will stop functioning properly in a way that could lead to organ failure and, in the rare case, death.

Luckily catching up from sleep deprivation can be as simple as catching up on sleep but if one is sleep deprived regularly, then one should look at the long term effects like weight gain, acne, headaches, migraine and high blood pressure among many others. And it can take weeks to get back on track. According to a study, it can take up to four days to recover from just an hour of sleep.

Let's debunk some of the sleep myths:

Myth: Watching TV before sleep is a good way to relax.

Debunk: No, it is not. TV is a source of bright blue rays of light. Bright light is a source that disturbs our mental attention and hence not recommended before sleep. It is also advised to read a book before sleep. It provides peace of state to our mind.

Myth: Many adults need five or fewer hours of sleep.

Debunk: Studies have shown that five hours is not enough for the vast majority of adults. There may be some individuals that may do OK on six hours but much less than that is a myth.

Myth: Your brain and body will adapt to less sleep.

Debunk: Researchers say that just like good nutrition is important for the proper functioning of our body, we similarly have a diet that we need for our brain to be at their best. Our performance keeps on deteriorating the more we skip our sleep.

Myth: It doesn't matter what time of day you sleep

Debunk: If we look at our biology, inside our brain we have a clock, which is often called the biological clock. Our sleep is timed. It doesn't just happen. And even if we don't sleep for a whole night we will be more and more sleepy along the night. But in the morning we will get another wind. That is the rhythm to be asleep at the night and awake during the day time and we ought to abide by that rhythm

Try getting in bed early rather than sleeping in late. Try getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night. So next time you skip your sleeping hours, think twice !!