Can You Die From Sleep Deprivation?
Learn about how much sleep you need, the health risks associated with sleep deprivation, and the chances of suffering an early death.
Published December 30, 2021.
Sleep deprivation can be caused by 2 factors:
- Not meeting the recommended amount of sleep each night
- Poor sleep quality
Sleep deprivation can cause many different health conditions, but what is the possibility that you could actually die from not sleeping?
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Before knowing if sleep deprivation could kill you, you first have to understand how much sleep you require. Though the amount of sleep varies per individual, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following range of sleep hours per night for specific age groups:
- 0-3months: 14-17 hours
- 4–12 months: 12–16 hours
- 1–2 years: 11-14 hours
- 3–5 years: 10-13 hours
- 6–12 years: 9-12 hours
- 13–18 years: 8-10 hours
- 18 and above: 7 or more hours
How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Health
Aside from general daytime sleepiness and inability to concentrate, research has shown that chronic sleep loss can cause the following conditions:
- Cardiovascular disease and hypertension
- Mood-related disorders like anxiety and depression
- Alcoholism and other substance abuse problems
Can Lack of Sleep Cause Early Death?
The obvious needs to be stated: Lack of sleep can potentially cause indirect death as impaired concentration and alertness can increase the risk of fatal accidents.
Since lack of sleep can cause and exacerbate cardiovascular conditions, those susceptible to heart attacks or stroke can go into a coma or potentially die from insomnia.
Thankfully, in normal individuals, the risk of dying from exhaustion is relatively low. Staying up late probably won't kill you, your brain will essentially "force" you to sleep long before you get to that stage, but that doesn't mean that you won't suffer significantly from sleep loss. Sleep is the period in which your body repairs cells and tissue, builds new tissue, and keeps your brain functioning properly. Chronic lack of sleep can lower your body's ability to rejuvenate, contribute to aging, and cause early death.
There is no correct answer as to how long it takes to die from sleep deprivation. Everyone is different and will respond differently. Think of it more like a spectrum than an absolute number of days. The more sleep you miss, the more difficult it is to catch up and the greater your risk will be. However, you can lower the risk by improving your sleep quality.
Dr Lori Beth Bisbey
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