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This episode of DNews was proudly made possible by the all-new 2015 Subaru Legacy. It's not just a sedan, it's a Subaru. Howdy snooze buttons, Trace here snoring away for DNews! We've talked a lot about sleep, but while scientists have slowly been decoding the secrets of animal naptime, we still don't know exactly WHY we sleep. We DO know though, that if we neglect it, we're screwed.
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The world record for sleep deprivation is 264 hours of wakefulness, or about 11 days. It was set by a high schooler in the mid-1960s.
Researchers routinely keep people awake for a eight to ten days with no ill effects. But that's not the same. By the way, this is sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is different from insomnia. According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, Insomnia is a nightly complaint of an insufficient amount of sleep or not feeling rested after the habitual sleep episode, while sleep deprivation is when a person persistently fails to obtain sufficient nocturnal sleep required to support normally alert wakefulness. One happens TO you, the other you're doing. Both have the same result, though.
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Not sleeping. When this happens, the human body responds, poorly. To say the least. Physically, the brain sends out hormones like cortisol — the stress hormone and TSH — or thyroid stimulating hormone, which regulates metabolism. Blood pressure goes up, and your metabolism stops processing glucose correctly creating food cravings for carbs. The overall temperature of the body will drop, and the immune system slows down.
Mentally, this causes problems with attention and concentration, irritability, depression, fatigue, decreased motivation and if it goes on long enough, can seriously mess up cognitive function altogether. So again, it seems that sleep isn't just a lovely retreat from the busy world, but also necessary for life! Without it we can barely survive! After a few days of sleep deprivation, people begin to experience forced brain shutdowns called microsleeps — where the human brain shuts down for just a second and goes into sleep mode. During that time, the brain is asleep, and the person loses motor function; but not for long enough to feel rested. This was happening to the high schooler who set the 11-day world record. In experiments at the University of Chicago, lab technicians kept mice awake for about two weeks before they died of whole body hypermetabolism. In humans, Fatal Familial Insomnia strikes in middle age, and as the name suggests it's inherited and deadly. When someone in one of the maybe 200 families in the world who have FFI reaches middle age, they'll be unable to sleep their autosomal systems break down and they eventually die or total organ failure after six to thirty, sleepless, months. Scientists are reluctant to say that the lack of sleep is what kills them, as the disease is actually related to Mad Cow, more than anything else. We probably CAN'T die from a lack of sleep itself, but most scientific studies have found psychological effects like paranoia and hallucination take hold and prevent us from learning more about the physical effects. Though sleep studies HAVE shown purposefully depriving yourself of sleep can increase risks for diabetes, obesity, heart problems, depression, and of course large equipment accidents thanks to microsleeps. If you need to recover from a lack of sleep, just sleep! The guy who was awake for 11 days slept for 14 hours and was pronounced completely normal. There's no such thing as catching up on sleep, but a true full night of sleep will do you good, regardless. What's the longest you've ever gone without sleep? I went 40 hours on a road trip to watch the last Space Shuttle launch. I was kept awake by Dr. Pepper, candy, and extreme geek-itude. Did you beat my record? Share your sleepless nights in the comments and be sure you subscribe for more DNews. And say hello on Twitter too! I'm at-TraceDominguez! Thanks for watching. .