What is the Longest Time Spent Without Sleep?

fatigued woman dozing off at work

Have you been deprived of sleep for an extensive period? Did you notice any changes in the ability to function optimally? If yes, you’re not alone. Sleep is one of the most important human activities for tissue repair, memory regeneration, and recharging of batteries.

A lack of sleep has been linked with side effects that can be detrimental to your long-term and short-term health.

What is the longest amount of time somebody has spent without sleep?

The longest amount of time spent without sleep is 11 days and 25 minutes, a record obtained by Randy Gardner in 1964. The process was supervised by Dr. Clement Dement, a leading Stamford University Sleep researcher.

Side Effects of Lack of Sleep 

You may not be planning to go 11 days without sleep. But, there are serious side effects associated with spending any long periods without getting a good amount of shuteye. If you plan to rob yourself of much-needed sleep, here are some negatives you can expect.

1. Accidents

Have you noticed that you begin to feel jittery after being awake for abnormally long periods? The lack of adequate sleep can make anyone susceptible to accidents. Some of the most devastating accidents in history have been caused by sleep deprivation.

For instance:

  • The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster was caused by engineers who had been working for 13 hours straight. With hundreds of confirmed deaths from radiation poisoning and other effects, the disaster has gone down as one of the worst in the world’s history.
  • The 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident is another devastating incident linked to a lack of sleep. The accident which occurred between 4-6 am was later found to be caused by human error.
  • The American Airlines Flight 1420 crash in 1999 and the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill are other major accidents caused by impaired performances from a lack of sleep. 

2. Cognitive Slowdown

Many of us experience struggles with the most basic thinking when we’re extremely tired and haven’t slept for long periods.

Sleep troubles can slow down an individual’s cognitive processes and alertness levels. Studying may become difficult while recalling even simple facts and figures can seem impossible.

Can you imagine struggling with the addition and subtraction of the most basic figures? That is exactly what happens when anyone is robbed of sleep for long periods. This is why it is important to have a good night of rest the day before an important exam or function at work.

Staying awake throughout the night on the eve of the D-day can backfire and lead to devastating effects.

Have you read the article we wrote on How to Sleep On The Night Before An Exam? Click the link to check out the smartest tips and tricks ever revealed.

3. Low Libido

couple looking at each other

When you’ve not hit the sack satisfactorily in a long period, getting intimate with a partner will probably be the last thing on your mind. Many studies have shown that a lack of sleep can kill the libidos of both men and women.

Even among couples who have always had healthy sex lives, sleep struggles in one or both can push bedroom activity levels downhill fast.

This is one of the reasons why many couples lose interest in sex after the birth of a new baby. The sleepless nights associated with tending for the newborn can take a huge toll on both of you.

If you’re trying to improve or at least maintain your libidos as a couple, it is important to take the time to sleep.

Have you seen the article we wrote on the 21 Smart Tips for New Parents To Get Good Sleep? Check out the insane sleep hacks you wish you always knew.

4. Health Problems

Do you spend several days being sleep deprived? If yes, the probability that you may be suffering from additional health complications can be high.

From diabetes to cardiovascular problems, many life-threatening diseases have been associated with sleep deprivation. Those who do not get enough shuteye can become susceptible to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and even strokes. 

Whether you’ve only recently started experiencing sleep troubles or have been a victim of chronic insomnia, it is time to take active steps to improve your nighttime rest. Allowing the status quo to remain could only spell doom for your quality of life and overall well-being.

Remember, creating the right ambiance for sleep in the bedroom can work wonders. As is watching your diet, eating properly, and engaging in regular exercises. If nothing else seems to work, you can always speak to a doctor for a sleep aid prescription.

5. Speeds up Aging

If you’re constantly being deprived of sleep, it is only a matter of time before you start looking older than your age.

Even a few nights of inadequate sleep can lead to conspicuous signs such as puffy eyes and sallow skin. So can you imagine how the body will turn out after several days of a lack of sleep?

Chronic insomniacs usually show off signs ranging from dark circles under the eyes to wrinkles across various body areas. The situation can get so desperate that many choose to undergo Botox injections and dermal fillers to regain youthful skins.

Others may be forced to choose more invasive procedures that can boost the appearance of the skin.

Have you read the article we wrote on Sleeping After Botox Injections? Click on the link for some insane insights on getting rewarding sleep after the cosmetic procedure.

6. Weaker Immunity

patient lying in a hospital bed

Did you know that the average human carries over 100 trillion germs at any point in time? Not all of these germs provide negative effects on the body. But a majority of them carry infections ranging from the common cold to other more serious health problems.

The good news is that our immunity levels as humans can protect us from a majority of these germs. However, sleep deprivation can gradually weaken the immune system.

It can get so bad that you become susceptible to bacteria and viruses such as common colds, flu, and other infections at the slightest opportunity.

This may lead to a myriad of health problems that can affect productivity levels and overall quality of life. To maintain the optimum level of immunity, it is important to get as much sleep as the body requires.

7. Judgment Impairment

A lack of sleep can impair a person’s judgment to stunning levels. The ability to analyze situations and make the best decisions is one of our advantages as humans.

Unfortunately, being robbed of critical sleep can make it difficult to assess situations correctly and respond accordingly.

Many people starve themselves of sleep to pursue something they regard more important. This could be money, an education, or a relationship.

However, this intentional sleep deprivation can result in significant health dangers including exposure to illness and serious medical conditions over time. 

You could end up achieving those professional or financial goals only to realize that the natural ability to sleep is destroyed forever. This can result in long-term health problems that can make those achievements less valuable.

8. Weight Gain 

Long-term insomnia is one of the main causes of obesity. Many of us grew up thinking sleeping for 7-8 hours a night could make us gain weight. However, this couldn’t be more wrong according to various reputable sources.

Insomnia may impact the hormones that regulate hunger and appetite, causing you to eat more often. Consuming more calories equals more weight gain so the probability of becoming obese becomes higher.

Besides, minimal sleep can decrease the amount of Leptin the body produces. Leptin is a hormone that promotes higher energy usage and reduced hunger. The lack of sleep may also force the body to produce abnormally high quantities of ghrelin, a hormone that causes hunger.

This can result in a stronger temptation to eat and minimal calorie burning leading to the risk of massive weight gain over a period.

Have you been skipping meals to lose weight? Check out the article we wrote on Sleeping When Hungry: 7 Reasons Why It Is Bad For Your Health.

9. Depression

depressed man sitting on a park bench

Did you know that one of the major causes of depression is a lack of good sleep? Well, multiple studies have shown strong links between insomnia and stress. Many clinically depressed patients report getting only a few hours of sleep each night.

This is why clinical psychologists and psychiatrists prescribe sleeping pills and other sleep-promoting medications as part of the treatment routine for their patients.

In most cases, patients experience a positive correlation between sleep improvements and reduced stress. Sure, sleep aids can be helpful in the battle against those nighttime blues but there are other natural ways to keep insomnia at bay

Here are a few options you can rely on to improve sleep.

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time daily
  • Keeping the bedroom dark and cozy
  • Warm baths at bedtime

10. Risk of Death

Finally, sleep deprivation can result in death. There’s a good reason why nobody has beaten Randy Gardner since he set that record for the longest time spent without sleep in 1964. It is because staying awake for a prolonged number of days can turn fatal.

There have been many instances of people dying after going without sleep continuously for days.

As noted previously, a lack of sleep may double the risk of death from heart attacks or heart failure.


Depriving yourself of sleep for days has no upsides. It can result in a wide range of negative effects that can even lead to death.

This is why it is important to get as much sleep as the body deserves. Randy Gardner may have gone over 11 days without sleep but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get anywhere close before you suffer a fatal stroke or heart attack.

Gabriel Smith

Hello, my name is Gabriel and I LOVE to sleep. Okay, you’re right, a lot of people do like sleep. But my passion is actually not sleeping. My interest lies in the “theoretical part”. What to do before bedtime. What a good night’s sleep is. etc. In short, how to sleep well. I hope you share the same interest as me, and enjoy reading everything about sleep.

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