Sleep Health

Can Lack of Sleep Kill You? The Connection between Sleep Deprivation and Mortality

UPDATED
June 25, 2024
Author
Esther Lee
Reviewer

Can Lack Of Sleep Kill You? | Let's Unveil The Truth

Imagine working in a heavy industrial setting, where the stakes are high, and the work demands your full attention. You need to be mentally sharp, physically alert, and present in the moment. Now imagine feeling dizzy, tired, and mentally exhausted because you didn't get enough sleep the night before. That's a disaster waiting to happen, but it's a common occurrence worldwide.

Sleep deprivation is a real issue impacting our ability to perform complex tasks. Not only does it put workers at risk of injury or even death, but it can also lead to costly mistakes and decreased productivity. Our brains and bodies need rest to function well, and so neglecting sleep is like running on an empty gas tank—you may go a certain distance, but eventually, you'll break down.

What's worse, after 24 sleepless hours, you can expect your mind and body to feel completely off-balance. But fear not; with some education and a few simple adjustments, you can ensure high performance and safe and healthy waking hours!

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is a common issue in today’s fast-paced world. Not getting enough sleep can result in much more severe consequences than just feeling tired. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to worker fatigue, decreased productivity, and other detrimental implications for your health (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2022).

Ignoring your body’s need for rest can lead to weakened immune systems, mood disorders, and even cardiovascular issues over time. Skipping out on sleep is never worth the potential risks to your health and well-being.

Long-Term Risks of Sleep Deprivation

A single night of insufficient sleep can cause us to feel exhausted and irritable, but the dangers of consistently depriving ourselves of rest are more severe. Let's uncover the risks of long-term fatigue:

Cognitive Impairment and Safety

Not getting enough sleep is detrimental to work performance and potentially deadly. The adage "I'll sleep when I'm dead" is dangerously misguided as the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer rises with prolonged sleep deprivation. And so forth, periods of prolonged sleeplessness can lead to death. It's not just a matter of feeling a bit dizzy during your shift—cutting corners on sleep can undermine all your efforts to be productive and safe on the job. The benefits of a good night's sleep should not be underestimated. It improves your memory, attention span, decision-making abilities, and overall functionality.

Can Lack of Sleep Kill You?

Have you ever been in bed, watching the clock in anticipation of morning? Maybe you're tossing and turning, trying to find a comfortable position, or perhaps you're lying there, mind racing with anxious thoughts. We've all been there, and it's no secret that a lack of sleep can leave you feeling miserable.

But can not sleeping kill you? Well, probably not. While sleep loss and exhaustion can bring a host of negative consequences, dying from lack of shut eye itself is a rare occurrence. There are rare genetic diseases such as Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) that can be fatal if left untreated, but most people won't experience immediate death from sleep deprivation. What’s more common, however, is an increased risk of accidents. So, whether it's driving or doing something else that requires alertness and focus, trying to function on little to no sleep can be a recipe for disaster.

How Lack of Sleep Can Kill You

While it's true that sleep deprivation can't kill you directly, it's important to understand the potential risks and consequences. According to Dr Shelby Harris, a licensed psychologist and board-certified sleep specialist, lack of sleep can increase your overall morbidity risk and contribute to events that can be fatal. While it may not be an immediate danger, the long-term effects of no sleep can lead to chronic health problems and affect the overall quality of life.

What Happens After 24 Hours Without Sleep?

Have you ever pulled an all-nighter? It’s something that many of us have experienced, whether it was for school, work, or just for the sake of it. But you might not realize what that sleepless night was doing to your body. After just 17 hours without sleep, your judgment, memory, and coordination are affected. After 24 hours, your mental faculties deteriorate, and your emotions take over.

Lack of sleep can lead to increased stress hormones and "local sleep" mode, where some brain parts shut down while others keep working. It's like a quick cat nap for your brain between long periods of restful sleep. If you push yourself too far without rest, you might also start experiencing microsleeps—brief spells of unconsciousness lasting between 15 to 30 seconds. These occur when your brain can no longer prevent sleep; it's as if your mind attempts to restore itself but without real rest.  Microsleeping while driving or doing other activities can be extremely dangerous, endangering your life and those of others.

How Much Sleep Is Needed for Optimum Health?

The quantity of sleep you require is determined by a variety of factors, including your age. While everyone's sleep demands are different, here are some basic suggestions for various age groups:

Recommended Hours of Sleep

4-12 months

12-16 hours per 24 hours, including naps

1-2 years

11-14 hours per 24 hours, including naps

3-5 years

10-13 hours per 24 hours, including naps

6-12 years

9-12 hours per 24 hours

13-18 years

8-10 hours per 24 hours

Adults

7+ hours at night

Sleep Tips

If you're struggling to get the restful sleep you need, consider these tips:

Create a Comfy Sleeping Space

Having a proper resting place can improve sleep quality. Follow these guidelines:

  • Keep your room cool.
  • Layer blankets for easy adjustment.
  • Choose a comfy mattress and pillows, but don't overcrowd the bed.
  • Use drapes or light-blocking shades.
  • Use white noise or monaural beats if needed.
  • Invest in high-quality linens and quilts.

Adjust Bedroom Activities

Your bedroom is your domain, where you can allow your mind and body to unwind. But to make it that way, you need to limit the activities you do there.

Reading a book, spending some time with your partner, or getting some much-needed shut-eye are all perfectly acceptable activities. But when it comes to your phone, work, or TV, they may be best outside the bedroom. These forms of stimulation can keep your brain working overtime, making it hard to get the rest you need to recharge for the next day. Making your bedroom a place wholly for rest allows you to properly relax and rejuvenate, helping you be more productive and refreshed the next day.

Engage in Physical Activity

Getting enough exercise can lead to better sleep. Just don’t work out too close to bedtime to prevent you from feeling too wired to fall asleep.

Be Consistent

As the weekend approaches, you may feel the urge to stay up late. After all, you don't have to wake up early the next day, right?

Unfortunately, doing so may disrupt your body’s internal clock, preventing you from staying well-rested. To avoid breaking these natural cycles, stick to a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends. If you need to nap, take it early in the day.

Conclusion

Sleep is crucial for our well-being. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to severe consequences, including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. While going without sleep for too long might not kill you directly, research suggests that the long-term effects can be fatal.

But you no longer need to be concerned that sleep deprivation can kill you. Fortunately, there's an app for that! Miracle Night helps you maintain a sound sleep schedule and provides a magical sleep experience. With this app, you can wake up feeling ready to take on the day thanks to our neuroscience-backed, AI-generated sleep sounds called Monaural Beats. We deliver personalized Monaural Beats that will help you get more out of less sleep. Prioritize your sleep and try Miracle Night today to see how better sleep can transform your life.