About all

36 hours of no sleep: The 5 Stages and What They Mean

The 5 Stages and What They Mean

Sleep deprivation can occur after just 24 hours of no sleep. However, the longer you spend awake, the more severe — and less tolerable — symptoms become.

People need sleep to survive. Sleep allows your body to repair itself and perform essential biological functions. Adults need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. But sometimes, work and lifestyle factors may disrupt your ability to sleep.

When you get less sleep than needed or no sleep at all, it’s called sleep deprivation.

For most people, a short bout of sleep deprivation isn’t a cause for concern. But frequent or prolonged sleep deprivation can cause serious health issues.

Lack of sleep can lead to poor cognitive function, increased inflammation, and reduced immune function. If sleep deprivation continues, it may increase your risk for chronic disease.

In general, there are five stages of sleep deprivation. The stages are usually divided into 12-hour or 24-hour increments. The symptoms usually get worse the longer you stay awake.

There isn’t a universal timeline for sleep deprivation.

However, the general stages are determined by how many hours of sleep you’ve missed. The symptoms of sleep deprivation tend to get worse in each stage.

Here’s what might happen to your body during sleep deprivation:

Stage 1: After 24 hours

It’s common to miss 24 hours of sleep. It also won’t cause major health problems, but you can expect to feel tired and “off.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 24-hour sleep deprivation is the same as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent. That’s higher than the limit to legally drive.

Staying awake for 24 hours may cause symptoms like:

  • drowsiness
  • irritability
  • anger
  • increased risk of stress
  • decreased alertness
  • impaired concentration
  • brain fog
  • fatigue
  • tremors
  • reduced coordination
  • increased risk of mistakes or accidents
  • food cravings
  • puffy eyes
  • dark undereye circles

Stage 2: After 36 hours

When you miss 36 hours of sleep, your symptoms become more intense. You’ll have an overwhelming urge to sleep.

You may start to have microsleeps, or brief periods of sleep, without realizing it. A microsleep usually lasts up to 30 seconds.

Different parts of your brain will have a hard time communicating with each other. This severely impairs your cognitive performance, causing symptoms like:

  • impaired memory
  • difficulty learning new information
  • behavioral changes
  • impaired decision-making
  • difficulty processing social cues
  • slow reaction time
  • increased errors

You’re also more likely to experience physical effects like:

  • increased appetite
  • increased inflammation
  • impaired immune function
  • extreme fatigue

Stage 3: After 48 hours

Missing sleep for 48 hours is known as extreme sleep deprivation. At this point, it’s even harder to stay awake. You’re more likely to have microsleeps.

You might even begin to hallucinate. This occurs when you see, hear, or feel things that aren’t actually there.

Other possible effects include:

  • depersonalization
  • anxiety
  • heightened stress levels
  • increased irritability
  • extreme fatigue

Stage 4: Awake for 72 hours

After 3 days of sleep loss, your urge to sleep will get worse. You may experience more frequent, longer microsleeps.

The sleep deprivation will significantly impair your perception. Your hallucinations might become more complex. You may also have:

  • illusions
  • delusions
  • disordered thinking
  • depersonalization

Stage 5: Awake for 96 hours or more

After 4 days, your perception of reality will be severely distorted. Your urge for sleep will also feel unbearable.

If you miss so much sleep that you’re unable to interpret reality, it’s called sleep deprivation psychosis.

Typically, sleep deprivation psychosis goes away once you get enough sleep.

It’s possible to recover from sleep deprivation by sleeping more.

You can start by going to bed early rather than sleeping in late. It’s also a good idea to get at least 7 to 8 hours of rest each night. This will help your body get back on schedule.

It can take days or weeks to recover from a bout of sleep deprivation. Just 1 hour of sleep loss requires 4 days to recover.

The longer you’ve been awake, the longer it will take to get back on track.

The best treatment depends on how much sleep you’ve missed. Possible options include:

  • Napping. If you’ve only lost a few hours of sleep, napping could reduce your symptoms. Avoid napping more than 30 minutes, which might disrupt your ability to sleep at night.
  • Good sleep hygiene. Practicing healthy sleep habits is key to preventing and treating sleep deprivation.
  • Over-the-counter sleep aids. Over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids are ideal for the occasional sleepless night. You can develop a tolerance to them, so it’s best to use them sparingly.
  • Prescription sleeping pills. Your doctor may prescribe sleeping pills. But like OTC sleep aids, they can become less effective over time.
  • Light therapy. If you have severe insomnia, your doctor might suggest light therapy. This treatment is designed to help reset your body’s internal clock.
  • Breathing device. If your sleep deprivation is due to sleep apnea, you might be given a device to help you breathe during sleep. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is the most common option.

Healthy sleep hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent sleep deprivation. This includes positive lifestyle habits that help you get quality sleep.

Expose yourself to natural light

Natural light exposure helps normalize your body’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. This will regulate your body’s internal clock.

Get regular physical activity

Regular exercise will help you feel tired at night. Aim for at least 20 to 30 minutes each day.

Try to work out at least 5 to 6 hours before bedtime. Exercising too late in the day might mess with your ability to sleep at night.

Avoid caffeine later in the day

If you drink caffeinated drinks, have your last cup before noon. It can take 6 hours for caffeine to wear off.

Avoid alcohol before bed

Although alcohol is known to promote sleepiness, it can disrupt the quality of your sleep. Avoid drinking too much alcohol before bedtime.

Avoid electronic screens before bed

It can be tempting to watch a movie or browse social media just before bed. However, the blue light from the screen can stimulate your brain. It also reduces melatonin production.

To avoid these effects, avoid using electronics 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime.

Create a calming bedtime routine

A soothing bedtime routine will help your body and mind prepare for sleep. This may include relaxing activities like:

  • taking a warm bath
  • stretching
  • meditating
  • reading

Have a pleasant sleep environment

You’re more likely to get quality sleep if your bedroom is comfortable and relaxing.

To create an ideal sleep environment:

  • Turn off electronics, including TVs and smartphones.
  • Keep the bedroom cool (between 60 to 67°F, or 16 to 19°C).
  • Use a comfortable mattress and pillow. Want suggestions? Browse our market, filled with editor-trusted and expert-verified pillow and mattress recommendations.
  • Cover up loud sounds with a fan, humidifier, or white noise machine.

Follow a consistent sleep schedule

Wake up and go to bed at the same time every night, even when you don’t have work. This will help your body maintain a regular schedule.

Avoid foods that disrupt sleep

Some foods take a while to digest. The digestive process can keep you awake, so it’s best to avoid these foods just before bed.

This includes:

  • heavy meals
  • fatty or fried foods
  • spicy meals
  • acidic foods
  • carbonated drinks

If you’re too hungry to sleep, choose a light snack like crackers or cereal.

Also, try to eat your last meal several hours before bedtime.

It’s normal to have the occasional sleepless night. But if you still have trouble sleeping after practicing good sleep hygiene, see a doctor.

Seek medical help if you:

  • have difficulty falling asleep
  • feel tired after getting enough sleep
  • wake up several times at night
  • experience microsleeps
  • experience frequent fatigue
  • need to take daily naps

The first stage of sleep deprivation occurs within 24 hours of missed sleep. Most people can tolerate this level of sleep loss.

But as sleep deprivation continues, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay awake. It also impairs your cognitive function and perception of reality.

Fortunately, with proper sleep habits, it’s possible to recover or prevent sleep deprivation. If you still have trouble getting a good night’s rest, visit your doctor.

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) is a type of circadian rhythm sleep disorder. It’s also known as delayed sleep phase disorder or delayed sleep-wake phase disorder.

DSPS is a problem with your internal body clock. If you have DSPS, you can’t fall asleep at a socially acceptable bedtime. Instead, your sleep is delayed by at least two hours. This happens even when you’re tired.

The delay can make you wake up later, which might interfere with work, school, and other daily routines.

DSPS is common. It can develop at any age, but it mostly affects teenagers and younger adults. Approximately 15 percent of adolescents and adults have DSPS.

The condition isn’t the same as being a “night owl.” If you’re a night owl, you choose to stay up late. But if you have DSPS, you’re up late because your body clock is delayed.

Difficulty falling asleep

DSPS makes it hard to fall asleep at a conventional bedtime. The delay in your internal clock tells your body to stay alert.

Typically, you won’t be able to sleep until several hours after midnight, between 2 a. m. and 6 a.m.

Sleeping difficulty can get worse if you try to stay up to do homework or socialize.

Difficulty waking up

Because you can’t get to sleep until late, DSPS also makes it hard to get up at a normal time. This is because your internal clock hasn’t started telling your body to wake up.

You might sleep well into the late morning or afternoon.

Excessive daytime sleepiness

Daytime drowsiness occurs when you can’t fall asleep but need to wake up at a certain time. During the day, you might find it difficult to focus and pay attention.

Even if you fall asleep early, DSPS may prevent you from getting enough deep sleep. This can make you feel excessively tired throughout the day.

No other sleep issues

Usually DSPS isn’t accompanied by other sleep problems like sleep apnea.

Unless it’s interfering with daily activities, you may generally be getting enough quality sleep — it’s just delayed. Additionally, when you fall asleep, you have no problems staying asleep.

The problem is when you can sleep and wake up.

Depression and behavior problems

If you can’t keep a normal sleep schedule, you may develop depression due to stress.

Daytime sleepiness can also interfere with work or school. You might show up late, miss days, or have a hard time paying attention. Children and teenagers with DSPS may experience poor academic performance.

DSPS can also lead to a dependency on caffeine, alcohol, or sedatives.

While the exact cause of DSPS isn’t known, it’s often associated with several factors.

These include:

  • Genetics. If you have a close relative with DSPS, you have a higher chance of developing the condition. Forty percent of people with DSPS have a family history of the disorder.
  • Changes after puberty. During adolescence, the body’s 24-hour sleep cycle becomes longer, which requires later sleep and wake times. Adolescents also tend to become more social and take on more responsibilities.
  • Psychological and neurological disorders. DSPS is linked to conditions like:
    • depression
    • anxiety
    • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
    • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Chronic insomnia. DSPS affects 10 percent of people with chronic insomnia.
  • Poor sleeping habits. DSPS symptoms can get worse if you don’t get enough light exposure in the morning. Symptoms might also increase if you’re exposed to too much light at night.

DSPS isn’t the same as being a night owl.

If you’re a night owl, you might purposely stay up to do homework or socialize. You’ll also wake up later than usual.

But when it’s time to follow a normal routine, you’re able to adjust your sleep schedule.

If you have DSPS, you don’t try to stay up late. Instead, your internal clock delays sleep even if you’re tired. It may be difficult to adjust your body clock, which makes it difficult to sleep and wake at normal times.

DSPS is often misdiagnosed.

This is because many people with DSPS force themselves to follow a normal routine. So, if you’re constantly fatigued, you might be misdiagnosed with depression. If you report problems falling asleep, you might be misdiagnosed with insomnia.

If you or your child has sleep issues, talk to a sleep specialist. You should also see a doctor if you have delayed sleep for at least seven days.

A sleep specialist can do different tests to determine if you have DSPS.

This might include the following:

  • Gathering medical history. This helps your doctor understand your family history and symptoms.
  • Request a sleep log. Your doctor might have you write down when you fall asleep and wake up each day. If you’d like, come prepared to your first appointment with a sleep log.
  • Actigraphy. You’ll wear a wrist device that tracks your sleep-wake patterns. This test is best done when you’re off from work or school, because you won’t need to wake up for various responsibilities.
  • Polysomnogram. If your doctor thinks you have a different sleep disorder, they might request an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram. As you sleep, the test will monitor your brain waves and heart rate so your doctor can see what your body does during sleep.

Generally, DSPS treatment involves more than one method.

The purpose of treatment is to normalize your sleep schedule by adjusting your body clock.

Your doctor will choose the best treatments for your symptoms and lifestyle. This might include:

  • Advancing your internal clock. Each night, you’ll go to bed about 15 minutes earlier. You’ll also wake up a bit earlier each day.
  • Delaying your internal clock. Also known as chronotherapy, this method involves delaying your bedtime 1 to 2.5 hours every six days. This is repeated until you can follow a normal sleep schedule.
  • Bright light therapy. After waking up, you will sit near a light box for 30 minutes. The morning light exposure can help you sleep sooner by advancing your internal clock.
  • Melatonin supplements. Your doctor might have you take melatonin, a hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. The best amount and timing is different for each person, so it’s important to follow your doctor’s exact instructions.
  • Improving sleep hygiene. Good sleep habits include following a regular sleep schedule and avoiding electronics before bedtime. You should also avoid these things before going to sleep:
    • caffeine
    • alcohol
    • tobacco
    • vigorous exercise

Usually, a teen who has DSPS won’t grow out of it.

DSPS often continues into adulthood, so it needs to be actively treated.

The initial treatment will adjust your body clock. But to maintain that change, you’ll need to continue treatment.

Your doctor can explain the best way to keep treating DSPS.

Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) is a body clock disorder. Your sleep cycle is delayed, so you can’t fall asleep until two or more hours past the “normal” bedtime.

DSPS isn’t the same as being a night owl. If you have DSPS, you don’t choose to stay up late. You can’t fall asleep even when you’re tired.

With your doctor’s help, you can get your sleep back on track. Treatment aims to change your body clock with bright light therapy, melatonin, and good sleep hygiene. It might also involve adjusting your sleep and wake times.

DSPS is most common in teenagers, but it can happen at any age. Talk to your doctor if you or your child is having sleep issues.

What happens if you don’t sleep for a long time. You will instantly grow old

A mother of many children decided to check for herself what will happen to a person’s face if he does not sleep for about a day and a half. In just 36 hours, the woman aged several years. However, problems with the skin and appearance are not the worst thing that lack of sleep can bring.

Lindsey Hope, a 39-year-old mother of three, decided to experiment by staying awake for 36 consecutive hours. The woman kept a diary and took a selfie every three hours to see how her face was changing, writes The Sun.

Lindsey with a child

According to the woman, with three preschoolers, one of whom is a baby, she does not have to get used to excessive sleep. However, the 36-hour waking experiment turned out to be much more difficult than she imagined.

In the first hour of her experience, Lindsey took a photo of her face, which became the starting point for the whole experiment.

Six o’clock in the morning, the beginning of the experiment – one hour without sleep

I took the first selfie right after I woke up with the children, but I already hated the bags under my eyes. My skin was reddish and also had a few spots on it,” Lindsey said in her diary.

The woman took a shower and put on light makeup, which made her face look fresher and more radiant. Bags and age spots are less noticeable, and the skin is more radiant. She took the next photo four hours after the start of the experiment.

Four hours without sleep, ten o’clock in the morning

I felt more alert and strong. I was happy with my complexion and didn’t feel like it had too many wrinkles, given that I’m almost 40 years old. I drank a glass of water and a cup of coffee, as usual, continued Lindsey’s diary.

The following selfie was taken in the afternoon. Lindsey felt great, doing household chores and going out for a walk outside. According to her, walking in the fresh air seems to have only improved her appearance.

Eight hours without sleep, two in the afternoon

I still look cheerful. I went out with the kids and did a seven minute garden workout. Going outside seemed to make my skin clearer. The spots and wrinkles seemed less noticeable than when I first woke up.

The woman took a new picture in the evening, after putting her children to bed and washing off her makeup.

13 hours without sleep, 7:30 pm

After putting my two kids to bed, I washed my face again and applied moisturizer. I still didn’t sleep. I drank water during the day to keep my skin hydrated, and I also drank a cup of tea and had some chocolate in the afternoon to get the energy to get through the night.

By midnight, sleep began to take its toll. A woman who usually goes to bed at ten in the evening began to struggle with the desire to sleep. But she decided to spend this time doing something that usually does not work – watch TV.

6 pm experiment, midnight

While everyone else was in bed, I had time to catch up at home and watch TV. I started feeling sleepy around midnight, so I had to splash cold water on my face to keep me awake.

The situation worsened at four in the morning. Now Lindsey was very sleepy, but she did not give up.

22 hours without sleep, four in the morning

I felt very sleepy. I had to constantly wash my face to stay awake. I fed the baby around 3 am. Looking in the mirror, I saw that my skin was terrible. Dark circles were worse than usual, and I looked much older than my 39years.

Three hours later, the children woke up and distracted Lindsey from her struggle with sleep. The woman applied a small amount of makeup to her face to smooth out circles under her eyes, and prepared to survive the next 14 hours.

25 hours without sleep, seven in the morning

I was grateful to the children who woke up and distracted me from my fatigue. I took a shower, put on a light layer of makeup that covered a lot of skin problems, and got ready for another day without sleep.

By the 28th hour of being awake, Lindsey surprisingly began to feel much better. She became very hungry.

28 hours without sleep, ten in the morning

Considering that I had not slept for so long, I suddenly felt better than hours earlier. But I was incredibly hungry. Around six in the morning I had breakfast with a bowl of cereal, and by nine o’clock I had to eat more toast. I ate some fruit and yogurt just after ten in the morning and still felt hungry.

Discomfort returned by dinner. Then the woman felt a strange desire to eat all kinds of junk food like chips.

31:00 13:00

I ate lunch until noon, trying to eat only healthy chicken and salad, but ended up opening a can of Pringles. It felt like I was eating a hangover, although I didn’t drink anything.

Soon the fatigue increased. It was much stronger than the usual breakdown that Lindsey experienced in the middle of the day.

33 hours, 3:00 pm

I don’t get much sleep with a newborn, but it’s become clear that even a few short naps make a huge difference in how you feel and look. I was incredibly lethargic and this showed up as severe dark circles under my eyes. My eyelids were so heavy. I had a can of cola and a chocolate bar to try and cheer me up.

In the final photo, the woman barely holds her eyelids. Comparing the first and last snapshot of the experiment, you might think that they were taken with a gap of five or ten years. But it’s only been 36 hours.

36 hours, 18:00

My bags were terrible and my skin became red and pale in places. I definitely had more spots than when I woke up in the morning and I have three more kids to go to bed. Once they’re all sound asleep, I think I’ll be gone like a light.

In fact, lack of sleep is much more detrimental to the body than just the deterioration of the skin. The immune system suffers, as well as the release of stress hormones, which adversely affects human health. Even wounds heal much longer if a person sleeps little.

Lack of sleep can even cause a stroke – this was proven by an athlete who lived according to the wrong regimen.

Another girl decided to do a similar experiment. She showed what her face looks like after four, six and eight hours of sleep. It turned out that even a couple of hours of lack of sleep will play a cruel joke on your face.

What will happen to the body if you don’t sleep for a day, two, a week — we tell you by day


A still from David Fincher’s film “Fight Club” (1999). The face of the protagonist Tyler Durden with huge bags under his eyes has become a symbol of insomnia on the Internet.


Throughout his life a person spends in a state of sleep from 15 to 30 years . But do not consider this time worthlessly spent – sleep is very important for the body. And the main troubles begin not in cases where there is a lot of sleep, but on the contrary, when there is too little sleep . We tell you what threatens to refuse a night’s rest for different periods of time.

24 hours

A rare person has not spent at least once in his life a sleepless night: preparation for exams, a friendly party, New Year, night work, in the end … If after that there is an opportunity to sleep, then it is not so scary.

If, after an active night, the same day follows, then a person may start to have a headache, it will be difficult for him to concentrate. A brutal appetite will wake up – the body is trying to compensate for the lack of rest with high-calorie food. A sleepless person can drink liters of coffee, trying to recover, but this will not help for long. By the way, we recently talked about why coffee does not invigorate and how to drink it correctly.

What are the risks of this regular daily lack of sleep? First of all, problems with the cardiovascular and digestive systems, they work to the limit due to a large amount of fatty foods, coffee and tea .

Studies show that the effects of one sleepless night on the body are comparable to cognitive impairment at 0. 1% blood alcohol. This, by the way, increases the risk of getting into an accident.

“After 24 hours of sleep deprivation, a person’s levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline increase,” explains John Kline, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Yale School of Medicine and Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. – Brain is trying to cope with not being able to reboot . And these hormones help keep the body active.”

36 hours

At this stage, your health is already at serious risk. First, you will be very sleepy. If this is not possible, you may begin micro-sleeps — periods of falling out of reality. They can last from a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds . But even this time is enough for you to lose control of what is happening around and a disaster occurs.

At the same time, markers of inflammation increase in the blood. This can lead to cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, as well as hormonal failure – after all, cortisol continues to flow into the blood, which means that you are in a state of prolonged stress .

Zoonar GmbH / Alamy

At this time, stomach pains may also appear, because due to lack of sleep glucose metabolism is disturbed . You will feel everything that you felt 12 hours ago, but in many times larger volume . Dizziness, watery eyes, inhibited reactions, weakened immune system. Congratulations, you are almost a zombie.

48 hours

You are literally sleeping on the go – due to the extreme stage of sleep deprivation, your brain turns off more and more often, micro-sleeps follow one another.

If you have not slept for two days, you will most likely lash out at everyone around you. It will be very difficult to work: you will not be able to reason and keep the necessary information in your head .

By the way, the immune system is also affected. A study of volunteers who refused sleep for three days, already after 48 hours of wakefulness showed a decrease of NK cells , which are called natural killer cells, by as much as 37%. NK cells play a key role in fighting viruses and tumor formation.

72 hours

After three days of insomnia, disturbances in the functioning of all body systems will begin. Even the gait will change – the person will move as if he were very drunk. Speech is disturbed, chills, tremors, and nervous tics begin. Appetite, on the contrary, disappears. At this stage, continuing to refuse sleep is life-threatening.

Another study, published in Comprehensive Psychiatry , showed how 12 astronauts survived 72 hours without sleep. All participants in the experiment recorded tachycardia, depressed mood, depression .

“The body really wants to switch off, and you force the brain to fight this desire,” says John Kline. “As a result, a person comes into a very fragile emotional state, and your brain has matured to hallucinations, delusions and paranoia.”

96 hours

This is the last stage. In four days, the perception of reality will be greatly distorted.