The effects of going sleepless for 24 hours

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We all have at some point in our life faced a dreadful morning as a result of not being able to get a wink of sleep the previous night. Studies show that when you go sleepless for 24 hours your body functions like a person who has 0.1% alcohol in their blood stream.

The usual culprits for one to lose sleep at night are urgent deadlines, taking care of a sick dependent (kids or elders), new born in the house, jet lag, medication or just too much partying.

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So, what happens when you go sleepless for 24 hours?

‘A sleepless night’ is usually underestimated as its physiological and psychological impacts are not visible immediately. Listed below are some after-effects of a sleepless night.

External: Have you ever wondered that how people at work and home guess (90% of the time accurately) that you had a sleepless night? Well coz most times it is literally written all over your face. Irrespective of gender these are the common tell-signs of spending a sleepless night.

  • Eyes and skin: You may wear your best clothes and makeup but how you feel is always reflected in your eyes. The common signs are dark circles, puffy under-eye, and redness in the eye. Missing your sleep can make you look older overnight as skin loses its elasticity and therefore looks saggy and wrinkly.
  • Day-time drowsiness: When you haven’t had your 7 hours of restful sleep, even despite an overdose of caffeine in your system you are most likely to end up yawning, or slip into trance mode (stare blankly in space), or zone out (just nod without understanding) during conversations and meetings.
  • Snappy mood: A good night’s sleep helps your mind and body recover from the day’s physical and emotional trauma. When you miss it, the direct impact is on your behavior. You react strongly to things which otherwise wouldn’t have bothered you. You get impatient, angry, overly emotional and cry easily.
  • Diminished motor skills: Sleep deprivation impedes our ability to think clearly and therefore we get clumsy as our reflexes are slower. Sleep deprived people are more likely to cause accidents especially when operating precision and heavy machinery. It is said that the number of accidents caused by sleep deprived drivers is almost the same as drunk drivers.

Internal: These are the impacts that only you would realize.

  • Microsleeps: Not sleeping leaves the brain in forever on mode and this causes the brain to sometimes auto-shut down for a spell of 15-30 seconds. This is known as microsleep which causes blank space i.e. victim has no memory of this. This behavior is especially dangerous when a person is driving or operating a machine.
  • Impact on memory: Sleep deprivation has an impact of memory the common examples are misplacing items like keys, phone, unable to remember name of colleague or what you ate last night.
  • Immune system: Sleep helps rebuild and repair your immune system. Therefore, missing a night’s sleep increases the risk of catching the seasonal flu.
  • Aches and pain: Not sleeping for 24 hours increases secretion of stress hormones which accentuates all the aches and pains that weren’t a bother earlier. Common areas of such pains are neck, shoulder, lower back, head, cramps in leg or stomach.

Things to avoid if you haven’t slept for 24 hours:

  • Avoid driving and operating heavy equipment.
  • After spending a sleepless night never take important decisions the next day as your mind is not in its best form to understand the implications and risks of the decision. It is best to postpone or delegate the matter.
  • Do not nap for more than 30 mins during the day as it will delay your sleep cycle further.

How to counter the effects of going w/o sleep for 24 hours:

  • Take a siesta or quick nap of 15-20 mins at work to counter the fatigue.
  • Eat food that is high in fiber and Vitamin C and drink plenty of water. This helps you stay alert and awake.
  • To get back to routine faster don’t overindulge in caffeine and other stimulants and most importantly stick to your sleep wake cycle.



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