How Long Can Someone Go Without Sleep?

How Long Can Someone Go Without Sleep?

Infographic Text: How Long Can Someone Go Without Sleep?


Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) is a genetic disease that affects a person’s sleep-wake cycles. People with FFI become unable to enter slow-wave sleep and may live in a stupor for months before dying. In the early 1990s, a man named Michael Corke spent the last six months of his life unable to sleep.


In 1965, high schooler Randy Gardner broke the world record for the longest time intentionally spent awake at 11 days. Other experiments have shown a limit of 8 to 10 days. While study participants were quite groggy after spending so long awake, they were able to return to normal functioning after one or two good nights’ sleep.


After 48 hours awake, many people will start having “microsleeps,” which are brief blackouts that last up to 30 seconds. It is also common for people to develop visual hallucinations and disordered thinking around this point, even if they don’t have any mental health diagnoses. Hallucinations often get worse with time until the person falls asleep.


After 24 hours without sleep, a person will gradually lose their ability to think clearly. They’ll have trouble concentrating, memorizing details, and making decisions. Sleeplessness will lower their cognitive performance as much as having a blood alcohol level of 0.10%. By comparison, a blood alcohol level of 0.08% is considered too drunk to drive.


  1. Clark, J. (n.d.). 10 amazing things people’s brains have done. Retrieved from
  2. Fatal familial insomnia. (n.d.). Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. Retrieved from
  3. Gillin, C. J. (n.d.). How long can humans stay awake? Scientific American. Retrieved from
  4. Hafner, J. (2017, March 22). What happens if you don’t sleep for 24 hours? You’re basically drunk. USA Today Network. Retrieved from
  5. Waters, F., Chiu, V., Atkinson, A. & Blom, J. D. (2018). Severe sleep deprivation causes hallucinations and a gradual progression toward psychosis with increasing time awake. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9(1), 303. Retrieved from

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  • Gary

    October 30th, 2020 at 6:49 AM

    I am 63 years old. I can remember never needed any more than 4 – 5 hours of sleep a night and when I was younger I often skipped a night of sleep.
    I used to lie in bed at night, unable to sleep, and become increasingly frustrated. I learned to relax, watch TV, read, write and use the computer, when I could/can not sleep; it did not help me sleep but missing a night or two of sleep quit bothering me.
    I have gone as long as 11 days without sleep; that is no sleep at all. Often when I go on these sleepless binges I will not get tired. When I do get tired after a week or so I might slip off into an hour or so; that couple of hours does wonders and I will be wide awake for another couple of 24 hour periods.
    These long sleepless binges are happening more and more often. I have currently been awake for 10 days; I was not even tired and planned, wanted to, go to be each night but would get to writing and researching on the computer and next thing its 5 – 6 am and there is no way I can sleep that late in the am.
    After 5 – 6 days without sleep I will start seeing some movement that is not there; toilet will look like it is flushing while I am standing over it, a speck looks like it is moving across the floor, or a star in the sky will look like it is falling. These hallucinations have never gotten worse than movement illusions. After 11 days, on two occasions, I have lost the ability to speak.
    I have never tried to stay awake; staying up a week or more seems natural and it is because I just do not get tired. If I miss one night of sleep I do worry it will lead to more missed nights, and it usually does. For some reason after a couple of nights without rest I get wired and it becomes more difficult to sleep; after 5 – 6 days I have sometimes felt fear at falling asleep, like I would die if I slept.
    Always after 10 -11 days I start to nod off, but not prior to that; I will be wide awake. Often after nodding off for 20 minutes at a time I am good for another couple of day.
    Currently I was awake for at least 11 days. Around the 11th I did some nodding off, no more than a few minutes. I was trying to sleep each night but after an hour or so just watching TV sleep did not come. I would turn off the TV but that was worse, alone with my thoughts, uncontrolled.
    I am currently on day 13 or 14. I need to sleep because I have some important items to write for an attorney and my son’s caseworker. I have trouble with concentration after day 7 and usually want nothing more than to become tired enough to sleep.
    I have never really caught up on sleep. The last time I was up 11 days I started getting sleep a couple of hours at a time, then 3 – 4 a night, and then finally a 10 hour night, and it was over. I was as good as new.
    This time appears the same. Day 11 was 2 – 3 days ago. I slept 1.5 hours two nights ago and 3 hours last night. I do not feel fully rested, but do feel a little tired. I do not have any luck sleeping one the sun is up but I may try going back to sleep (it is 6:45 am).
    I noticed the record for going without sleep is 11 days. I do not doubt I could beat that, and probably have. I have never, however, tried to stay awake or stayed awake purposefully when I was tired enough to sleep.

  • Mingtso

    December 13th, 2020 at 4:25 PM

    How do you managed such a long time without sleep, did you ever took sleeping pills

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