Can You Die From Lack of Sleep? Hint: 3 Days Would Be Pushing It!

There are times when you experience no sleep all night, be it due to stress, traveling, illness, or medication. Insomnia is unpleasant and wrecks your focus, pushing you toward a day fueled by coffee, sugar, and being a little grumpy. Your body is not designed for a 24-hour lifestyle and studies have shown a decrease in cognitive ability, health issues, and even strangers being less likely to approach a sleep-deprived person. Sleep loss impairs the human system and is a well-documented form of torture. Let’s talk about the effects of sleep depreciation on your mind and body.  

For most healthy adults, 7-9 hours of sleep per night is recommended to maintain good health

 How Long Can Humans Stay Awake?

For most healthy adults, 7-9 hours of sleep per night is recommended to maintain good health. Although, the majority of American adults would say they survive on much less. There are records of people going hundreds of hours without sleep. In 1965 a 17-year old Randy Gardner stayed awake for 11 days (264 hours) for a science fair experiment.  

Some sleep deprivation experiments take place in a lab under controlled conditions. Others forgo sleep in an attempt to make their way into the Guinness World Records, and some to raise money for their favorite charity. 

In 1959, radio presenter Peter Tripp set out on a 201 hour broadcast from a glass booth in Times Square. He was monitored by doctors, scientists, and an intrigued public. By day 3, Peter was hallucinating spiders in his shoes and cursing at everyone around him until the experiment was over. 

His loved ones said the experiment changed his character from the man they knew, he got divorced, lost his job, and traveled around America as a salesman. Chances of dying in your sleep may be minimal but your life may take a dramatic turn like Peter’s if you stay awake for 201 hours.  

In one of the few televised sleep deprivation experiments, the British reality show, Shattered, offered £97,000 to the winning contestant who could stay awake for 10 days. During the show, the contestants had to complete grueling challenges and tasks. But, they had to work as part of a team because if one shut their eyes for more than 10 seconds, £1,000 would be deducted from the prize money. The winner, Clare Southern stayed awake for 178 hours.

Learn more about sleep deprivation, here

You can survive longer without food than you can survive without sleep

What Are the Risks of Sleep Deprivation

After 1 Day

  • Will feel like you’re intoxicated
  • Inability to focus or perform simple tasks increases
  • Will feel muscle tension, irritability, and moodiness  
  • Increase risk of road accident DO NOT drive when tired 

After 1.5 Days

  • The level of cortisol (stress hormone) increases in the body
  • Hormone levels become imbalanced resulting in a change in body temperature, appetite, mood, and stress level 
  • Sleep deprivation chills kick in 
  • Oxygen intake decreases 
  • Short term memory recall is weakened  
  • A major decrease in energy and enthusiasm 
  • May have trouble speaking, recalling certain words 
  • Inability to concentrate increases

After 2 Days

  • The aforementioned general symptoms worsen
  • The immune system takes a hit increasing your risk of illness 
  • Microsleep kicks in (briefly losing consciousness) - confusion and grogginess follows  

After 3 Days

  • Sleep will be the only thing on your mind 
  • Won’t be able to hold a conversation
  • Extreme exhaustion, heart beating more rapidly than usual
  • Problems with emotional regulation - feelings of depression, anxiety or paranoia 
  • Illusions and hallucinations
  • False information starts looking true
  • Hat phenomenon - pressure around the head

After More Than 3 Days  

  • Extremely dangerous
  • More hallucinations and increased paranoia
  • Psychosis can make you feel you’re not on this planet 
  • Can lead to organ failure and, in rare cases, death

Can not sleeping enough make you sick? Find out, here

Can You Die From Lack of Sleep?

You can survive longer without food than you can survive without sleep. A few hours of lost sleep per week is enough to show in your concentration levels and mood. Your hormones will become imbalanced, you’ll crave more unhealthy food, your immune system will become weakened and you’ll be more susceptible to illness. 

Sleep deprivation death is rare but the accumulation of sleep deprivation symptoms over time can impact your physical health and mental wellbeing. Lifestyle changes can be the best way to start managing sleep disorders. Getting plenty of fresh air and exercise, eating a varied diet, staying hydrated, and having fun with loved ones can boost your overall mood and physical health. 

Keep a regular bedtime and wake time, sleeping all day and staying up all night watching Netflix may not be the healthiest thing to do. If you’re having trouble resetting your sleep schedule, check out our handy tips, here. Your quality of life is impacted by your quality of sleep, make it a priority so you can live life to the fullest.   

Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI)

Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) is a rare but terminal genetically inherited disease. It begins with symptoms of insomnia and quickly escalates to hallucinations, weight loss, and dementia before the patient finally succumbs to the disease and dies. A well-known case of FFI is that of Michael Corke, a music teacher from Chicago. After his 40th birthday in 1991, Michael suddenly developed insomnia, despite having no sleep disorders throughout his life and being in good health. His insomnia crippled his health and he quickly deteriorated, his medical team had no idea why he couldn’t sleep or why sleeping pills exacerbated his symptoms. He died in hospital after an excruciating 6 months of sleep deprivation. 

The risks of not sleeping are physical and mental, sleep deprivation death could be due to the deterioration of physical health

How Many Nights Can You Go Without Sleep?

The risks of not sleeping are physical and mental, sleep deprivation death could be due to the deterioration of physical health. Restorative sleep keeps you healthy as it allows your body to heal, store memories, catalog daily events, restore depleted energy, and balance hormone levels. Being unable to sleep well, throws your body off balance, causing dis-ease.   

Sleep Deprivation Experiments

The aforementioned Randy Gardner and Peter Tripp are some of the most notable sleep deprivation experiments. Today, it is viewed as unethical to conduct such experiments on humans. Sleep deprivation experiments on dogs, rats, and birds have shown a lack of sleep for dogs and rats can be fatal. While birds and aquatic mammals have developed abilities to shut down parts of the brain while being awake, similar to humans.    

What Are the Consequences of Oversleeping? 

Excessive sleeping can be just as detrimental to your physical health as not sleeping at all. Sleep apnea, narcolepsy, depression, anxiety disorders, illness, and medications can all cause over-sleeping. Your motivation, energy, and enthusiasm can almost vanish from over-sleeping. Your personal relationships and ability to work can suffer.   

Learn how to get more deep sleep, here


You can survive without sleep for a short period of time before your cognitive abilities, physical health, and mental wellbeing start to suffer. Causes of death in sleep tend to be from old age or illness. While not sleeping in itself may not kill you, it can make you feel sick, irritable, and hurt your relationships with loved ones. If you are going 3 days no sleep, you’ll be hallucinating and will only be able to think about sleep. You’ll be putting your life at risk, especially if you drive while sleepy. Any more than 7 days no sleep is going to have severe life-threatening risks. Restorative sleep every night keeps you healthy, happy and energized to enjoy every moment of your life.   

Can You Die From Exhaustion?

A prolonged lack of sleep can have detrimental effects on your physical health and mental wellbeing. While you may not die from exhaustion, the impact of not sleeping on your organs, brain, and cognitive ability is what will be detrimental and can cause death. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night to maintain good health.  

How Long Does it Take to Die From Lack of Sleep?

There have been some sleep experiments where people have stayed awake for hundreds of hours. They suffered hallucinations, anger issues, and confusion. There are other rare cases where people have inexplicably been unable to sleep and died after 6 months of no sleep. This rare disease is Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI). 

Can Too Much Sleep Kill You?

Sleeping too much can be a sign of depression or other illness. While sleeping a lot will not kill you, it will have a severe impact on your quality of life. Your personal relationships will suffer, you will be unmotivated to achieve your goals, and you may make yourself ill from lack of fresh air and exercise. 

Do You Need Sleep to Live?

Sleep is an essential component of a healthy body and mind. When you sleep, your body recharges itself, memories are cataloged and stored, hormones are regulated, and your mind is reset. You always feel better about things after a good night’s sleep. Good quality sleep is as essential to a healthy immune system as fresh air and a healthy diet.