8 Scary Things That Happen After Extreme Sleep Loss

8 Scary Things That Happen After Extreme Sleep Loss

By Jack Ross

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Sleep matters. A lot. So much so, that when you don’t get enough shut-eye, your body and mind suffer.

Just to be clear, there’s a big difference between missing out on an hour of sleep here and there and extreme sleep deprivation, when you’re up for 24 hours straight or days at a time. We’re talking about the latter. Here’s a list of the worst that could happen next time you plan to pull an all-nighter.

1. You get REALLY paranoid

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean you’re wrong,” the saying goes. But it could mean you’re super sleep deprived. One study reviewing a body of research found that staying awake for 24 hours or more could make you over-perceive the threat of global disaster. In some cases, you might even think you’re responsible for things that have nothing to do with you—like being the reason for the Egyptian-Israeli conflict, or that a Secret Agent is trying to get you to return to the Suez Canal (both things study participants reported believing!) Stay woke, but make sure you sleep to stay sane.

2. You might be legally drunk (without drinking!)

That’s right—being awake for 20-25 hours straight is comparable to having a blood alcohol level of 0.10, higher than the limit of being legally drunk, one study revealed. This means you’ve compromised your ability to drive a car, ride a bike, or operate machinery. Put down the power tools, friends.

3. Your brain gets schizophrenic

We all have a Dr. Jekyll alter ego (or is that just us?), but sleep loss brings it out. According to one study, staying up for 24 hours or more can cause your brain to show symptoms of schizophrenia, such as being able to read thoughts, and even having an altered sense of time and smell. Mr. Hyde would recommend getting your rest.

4. Emotional IQ suffers

You already know you aren’t yourself when you’re tired, but when you’re short on zzz’s you might turn into an angry, isolated bird. One study looked at how sleep loss affects emotional empathy. Participants who didn’t sleep for 24 hours showed reduced capacity for that kind of emotional understanding, compared to those who slept. For the sake of your social life, go to bed on time.

5. Romantic IQ suffers, too

Imagine approaching someone thinking she gave you the “eye” when she didn’t (ouch!). Just one night of sleep deprivation could impact how you perceive cues from potential mates and the decisions you make, according to findings from one college study. Do your ego and your dating life a favor, and get eight hours of sleep.

6. You might microsleep!

Don’t let the cutesy name fool you: Microsleep is when you involuntarily doze off for up to 10 seconds at a time. Experts say these episodes can occur after extended periods of sleep deprivation, and microsleeps can happen anytime, anywhere. If you want to avoid a macro problem, don’t become a microsleeper.

7. You may hallucinate

Research shows that missing out on sleep for 24 hours or more can trigger your brain into a delirious, imaginative state. One study reported extremely sleep deprived participants saw visions of people who weren’t there and walked into walls they perceived as open doors. Alternate realities and possible concussions? No thanks.

8. You can lose brain cells

Your brain needs those restful hours at night to store memories, organize information, and more. But after being awake for 18 hours straight, you start to put your brain cells to pasture. One animal study reveals that 25-30 percent of brain cells can die after extreme sleep loss. You put enough stress on your brain with the epic multi-tasking you do all day long. Get out of your head, and go to bed.

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