This is What Can Happen to Your Mind When You Don't Sleep for 24 Hours
If you've ever pulled an all-nighter you'll be familiar with the unpleasant effects of sleep deprivation. For many people, these include physical fatigue, mood swings and the inability to focus properly. But what happens to your body when you don't get enough sleep for an extended period of time?
24 hours of sleep deprivation
Throughout history, sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture by the military and government intelligence agencies. However, interrogators found that prolonged periods of forced sleep deprivation caused psychosis with hallucinations and false memories in detainees, making them an unreliable source of information.
According to a 2015 study conducted by a team of German and English researchers from the University of Bonn and Kings College London, just 24 hours of sleep deprivation "can lead to conditions in healthy persons similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia." The study examined 24 healthy patients, male and female aged between 18 and 40 in a controlled environment. Patients were kept awake all night with stimulating activities such as board games, conversation, walking and watching movies. After 24 hours of remaining awake, the patients underwent a "prepulse inhibition test" which measures the brain’s reactions to external stimuli.
Researchers found that patients were more sensitive to light, colour or brightness. Their sense of time, smell and mental acuity were also affected significantly with some of the patients even believing they could read people's thoughts or experienced "altered body perception". While the symptoms went away after a good night's recovery sleep, the study raised questions about the long-term impact of sleep deprivation, particularly on people who suffer from mental health issues and night-shift workers.
Effects of prolonged sleep deprivation
More studies relating to the long term effects of sleep deprivation have found links between prolonged sleep loss, as well as serious health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, men who suffer from severe sleep apnoea are "58% more likely to develop congestive heart failure than men without the sleep disorder."
Another study published in the International Journal of Cancer examined the correlation between circadian rhythm disorders and cancer. Researchers found the rate of breast cancer was 30% higher for women who worked night shifts and that shift work has also been linked to an increase in incidences of certain cancers in men.
While the exact science in the link between sleep loss and serious health issues has yet to be uncovered, one thing is clear: not getting enough sleep may be detrimental to your physical, mental health and wellbeing.
Learn more about how you can adopt healthier sleep habits on our blog.