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How Long Can a Human Stay Awake?

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Almost all of us can remember a night where we never got around to sleeping, whether it was a result of work, stress, or even just hanging out with friends. Once you hit the 24-hour mark of being awake, you may have begun to feel like a zombie, experiencing difficulty focusing accompanied by a severe lack of energy. But have you ever wondered just how long you could actually stay awake for?

It is not recommended that you try and answer this question for yourself. Sleep plays a vital role in your health both mentally and physically. It is essential for functioning properly and is responsible for the majority of your recovery from the day.

But the question does have an answer, and different experiments have shown the longest that a person can stay awake for and the effects that it can have on your body both mentally and physically. Before we break this information down for you, we feel that it is appropriate to provide you with a quick guide for how much sleep you should be getting each night based on your age.

How Much Sleep Should You Be Getting?

The amount of sleep that is recommended will vary throughout your life as you get older. Due to the rapid physical and mental development that you undergo as a child, it is important for kids to get significantly more sleep than adults. This is not to say, however, that adults should be regularly cutting back on their sleeping time. In order to live a healthy lifestyle, you must maintain a balance.

It is common knowledge that it is important to exercise and have a balanced diet, but many people do not know that you can actually undermine those efforts if you are not getting enough sleep. In fact, poor sleeping habits in adults have been linked to obesity on several occasions.

Below is a summary chart to help you better understand exactly how much sleep you should be aiming for each and every night.

Group Age Hours of Sleep
Newborns 0-3 Months 14-17
Infants 4-11 Months 12-15
Toddlers 1-2 Years 11-14
Preschool 3-5 Years 10-13
School-Age 6-13 Years 9-11
Teenagers 14-17 Years 8-10
Adults 18-64 Years 7-9
Older Adults 65+ Years 7-8

How Long Can a Person Stay Awake?

The answer to this question will be different for every individual due to a large number of factors that play a role in how much rest your body needs. The experimental answer to this question, however, is 264 hours (about 11 days).

In 1965, a 17-year-old high school student named Randy Gardner set this world record for a science fair. The previous record, set by a man named DJ Tom Rounds, was set at 260 hours.

Other research studies on this topic were closely monitored, and many of the subjects managed to remain conscious for 8 to 10 days. While none of the subjects experienced any permanent medical, neurological, or physiological damage, they did exhibit significant decreases in their higher mental processes, with a lack of concentration, motivation, and perception being reported.

While these numbers may seem impressive, do not let them be glamorized. Admittedly, it would be nearly impossible to stay awake long enough to have any permanent effects, but prolonged sleeping troubles and a continuous lack of sleep come with severe consequences.

What Happens When You Stay Awake for Too Long?

Shorting yourself on beauty sleep is not advised as it can lead to serious health problems over time. While many of the short-term effects from a lack of sleep are only temporary, a continuous cycle of sleep deprivation can begin to take a massive toll on your body both mentally and physically. Below is a breakdown of the different symptoms you can experience from a lack of sleep.

Short-Term Effects

Research has shown that even missing an hour of sleep in a night can significantly affect your cognition. Because of this, it is important to make sure you create a good sleeping schedule that allows you enough time to unwind and relax before bed so that you can achieve a deep and restful sleep.

Some of the short-term effects of lacking sleep include:

  • Impaired Memory – A lack of sleep can affect your ability to process information and recall past experiences.
  • Delayed Reaction Time – Having a delayed reaction time can become quite dangerous, especially for the majority of people who wake up and then proceed to drive to work. Each year, thousands of people die due to vehicle accidents that involved a drowsy driver.
  • Relationship Stress – Wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Not getting enough sleep can cause moodiness and irritability that can put a strain on your personal relationships with friends, family, and significant others.
  • Decreased Quality of Life – Feeling exhausted makes you more likely to avoid activities that you would normally enjoy doing, such as going for a walk or hanging out with friends.

Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of not getting enough sleep are much more severe than the short-term effects and should not be taken lightly. Some of the symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation include:

  • Obesity – As we mentioned earlier in the blog, many research studies have linked obesity to a lack of sleep. The changes that occur to your hormones during this time can greatly affect your hunger and appetite.
  • High Blood Pressure – Chronic sleep deprivation can damage your ability to regulate stress hormones, resulting in an increase to your blood pressure. This can further develop into other heart problems if not treated.
  • Increased Risk of Stroke – There are many ways that sleep deprivation affects your body, with one of them being in the damage that is done to your cardiac health.A study has discovered that prolong sleep deprivation can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular disorders that often result in death.
  • Depression – Much like the short-term effect of irritability, depression can set in when you have not had enough sleep. Always remember to take care of yourself and prioritize a full night of sleep.


Pulling an all-nighter every now and again is not going to have everlasting consequences, but it is important to understand how truly important sleep is. Without sleep, your body is not able to function properly and can lead to devastating consequences for your health. Make sure you take a look at the chart above to find the number of hours of sleep you should be getting.

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