But sleep deprivation is more than just missing out on a couple extra hours of beauty sleep. A recent TED-Ed video made by Claudia Aguirre delves into just what happens when the human body doesn’t get any sleep at all, as reported by The Huffington Post as well as Motherboard.vice.com.
Aguirre’s video tells the tale of a 17-year-old high school student named Randy Gardner. In 1964, in an event that actually happened, Gardner stayed awake for 264.4 hours (about 11 days) as an experiment for a science fair project. The experiment was even observed by Dr. William Dement, a Stanford sleep researcher.
The results after the first couple of days were what most would expect: inability to focus, identify objects by touch, poor motor skills, short term memory loss, and irritability. At the end of the experiment, Gardner reported having hallucinations, feelings of paranoia, and an overall lack of concentration to perform simple tasks.
Gardner eventually recovered from the experiment, but the long-term effects sleep deprivation can have to the body don’t stop there. Sleep deprivation can cause hormonal imbalance, illness, high blood pressure, and in some extreme cases even death, according to the TED-Ed video.
The body is able to repair DNA, relax muscles, and stabilize metabolic processes during sleep. One of the most important unseen functions that occurs is the lymphatic system’s clean up of metabolic byproducts like adenosine, which tell the brain to sleep and are partly to blame for the resulting symptoms of sleep deprivation. Sleeping is like the brain’s reset button to get rid of all the clutter.
Sleep apnea is one condition that can greatly inhibit a person’s ability to get restful sleep, and untreated sleep apnea sufferers are three times as likely to have heart disease. Other negative consequences can include an increased risk of obesity and diabetes.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, an average adult should get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night. Do yourself and your brain a favor — don’t be like Randy Gardner and get adequate sleep tonight and henceforth.