Chronic sleep deprivation and its effects on brain activity

People who suffer from sleep deprivation react irritably and aggressively in their private and professional environment. If the sleep deprivation lasts for several days, serious effects on brain activity already become apparent. Healthy and undisturbed sleep is vital for the human organism. Systematic sleep deprivation is and was not used as an extremely effective torture method for nothing. Even though the effects of sleep deprivation are well known, over 25 percent of adults in Germany alone suffer from it. If you don't allow your body to regenerate in at least six or seven hours during the night's rest, you risk permanently damaging your health. Even one night without sleep has an effect on the body that can be compared to that after the intake of one per mille of alcohol.

After 24 hours, the effects of sleep deprivation are still bearable, as the body produces the stimulating hormone dopamine to compensate for the disturbance. After two nights without sleep, the hormone effect diminishes significantly, resulting in concentration problems and impaired logical thinking. After the third sleepless night, motor disturbances set in, accompanied by tremors, chills, and dizziness. By the fifth day, hallucinations, apathy, and psychosis can be observed. The body then falls into a coma-like deep sleep.

Hallucinations, which studies have shown to be noticeable after as little as sixty hours without sleep, are only the first signs of the devastating health consequences that result from chronic sleep deprivation. In the course of a series of scientific studies, one woman showed panic reactions after sixty hours of sleep deprivation, imagining that her arms were covered in cobwebs. Another subject developed outbursts of rage as an imaginary hat constricted her head. Because of the severe consequences on the mental health of the study participants, the research was terminated prematurely. U.S. DJ Peter Tripp deprived his body of all sleep for over two hundred hours in a self-experiment for charity. When he was to be examined by a doctor who appeared in a dark suit, he fled, imagining that the doctor was his mortician. Hallucinations and associated panic reactions are only the first symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation, which also seriously endangers physical health. This can be seen, for example, in the extremely rare hereditary disease of lethal familial insomnia, which mostly affects people over the age of forty. It inevitably leads to death after an average of one and a half years, during which those affected can hardly sleep or only sleep to a limited extent.

Therefore, always make sure to consider your individual sleep needs in order to stay healthy, balanced and productive.