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15 Gnarly Things That Happen To Your Body When You Die Of Sleep Deprivation

Updated October 17, 2019 1.1m views15 items

Sleep deprivation sucks, and if you've ever suffered from it, then you know it can make you act pretty strangely, make your work sloppy, and give you the worst sort of headaches. What you might not know is that sleep deprivation death is a real thing. That's right. You can in fact DIE from a lack of sleep! With that grim knowledge, you may now be wondering what dying of sleep deprivation is like. Well, lucky for you, you don't have to stay awake for eleven days to find out. You just have to read on to discover the horrifying, fascinating facts.

You may have had a period of insomnia so severe that you felt like you were dying. But you can rest assured; you've probably never even gotten close to that point. It can happen, though, and it's totally different than dying from a fall or dying in an explosion. It's slow, painful, and pretty darn confusing.

If you're still wondering how close you are to your lack of sleep limits, or if you're just curious about how sleep deprivation death happens, you're invited to climb into the sleepless sack of the insomniac. But be warned: what you read here might either make you want to take a nap right now, or it might make sleep tonight (and every night) pretty difficult.

  • You May Lose The Ability To Smile

    It probably makes sense that there are emotional consequences to sleep deprivation, but these affective effects are likely more intense than you think. Your positive emotions are actually the first to go when you don't get enough sleep. Not only will you feel sadder or even depressed more often, but you'll also have problems expressing happiness when you do feel it.

    Doctors have discovered that when people become sleep-deprived, they lose the ability to show positive emotion on their faces. So, even if you say you're happy and try to smile to demonstrate it, if you haven't slept, you may still show a neutral face. That, or you might appear falsely happy, showing a pained grimace-y thing instead of a genuine smile. On top of that, you may not even be able to recognize a smile from another person. To a sleep-deprived mind, a positive expression can appear neutral or even negative. There's a reason sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture.

  • You're Going To Get More Than A Little Grumpy

    In a sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy, your inability to show joy on your face can quickly turn into emotional problems and mood swings. In fact, your mood and your ability to sleep both use the same neurotransmitters. As a result, it's very difficult for even a professional to tell the difference between sleep loss and actual depression. Because the chemical changes in the brain brought on by lack of sleep are the same as those associated with more significant mental issues, you may show symptoms of bi-polar disorder when you don't sleep enough, and you may have manic episodes, including sudden bouts of anger.

    Even more alarming is the fact that you may take these feelings out on those around you or on yourself. Lack of sleep has even been linked to thoughts and feelings of suicide.

  • You'll Start Craving All The Carbs

    You may think that only pregnant women get really weird cravings, but it also happens to the sleep-deprived. After a few days of no sleep, your body is going to stop processing food the way it used to be able to do. For one thing, it will stop metabolizing glucose correctly, which means you won't have your usual energy. In response to this decrease in energy, you're going to start craving carbs like crazy. In other words, when you haven't slept, bring on the pasta, bread, and pizza! This happens because carbs are basically pure energy, and your body believes that you need this energy to live when you're not getting any sleep. 

    You may also find cravings for comfort foods or dishes that make you feel happy and relaxed. Think of these as your brain trying to give you some food-related calmness that will hopefully lead to sleep.

  • Your Body Will Force You To Sleep, Even Briefly

    Your body is going to make every effort to force you to get a good night's sleep. After as little as one night of sleep deprivation, in fact, you may start experiencing something commonly called "microsleeps." Microsleeps are tiny little naps that last up to 30 seconds before snapping you back into the waking world. Your eyes might remain open, but you won't be processing any information from the world around you. Your brain will fall into this brief sleeping state uncontrollably, and even as you force yourself to wake up, you may lapse into another microsleep only moments later. 

    This can, obviously, lead to accidents behind the wheel, problems on the job, falls, and other issues that can threaten your health. That being said, microsleeps can also be vital to keeping your body alive as the sleepless days go by.