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Offline Shadec

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Why is sleep deprivation fatal?
« on: 22/07/2010 10:30:02 »
Joel Hillman  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Hello Naked Scientists,

I've heard humans can last approximately 10 days without any appreciable sleep, and though symptoms set in much earlier, it is at this point one dies. The way it was described to me was that the neurons begin regenerating, thus killing the person - I interpreted this as the neurons begin to reform over the top of themselves. I'm not a doctor yet, so I was wondering if you'd be able to help me with this: How does one die from lack of sleep? My idea before this was simply that the body is run down. What would happen to neurons in a situation where no sleep was achieved?

I had one last question: I've spent some time volunteering in an orphanage in India, and while I was there, for a period of about one week, I had virtually no sleep, due to noise disturbance. At the end of that week I began to hallucinate, which was very unpleasant. So, my question is this - how and why does lack of sleep cause hallucinations? And I'm not just randomly linking symptoms with stimuli, hallucination is (as far as I can find) a symptom of sleep deprivation.

Thanks so much
-J

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 22/07/2010 10:30:02 by _system »


 

Offline Make it Lady

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Why is sleep deprivation fatal?
« Reply #1 on: 22/07/2010 23:30:21 »
Neilep is the expert on this. You should ask him.
 

Offline neilep

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Why is sleep deprivation fatal?
« Reply #2 on: 23/07/2010 00:50:36 »
Neilep is the expert on this. You should ask him.

If I was truly an expert then I guess I would sleep very well.

I guess my " expertise " lays in the fact that I have developed a way of dealing with my lack of sleep which I find is  useful, specifically, to me . I have had no choice but to create a coping mechanism. The majority of people who suffer with some form of sleep deprivation are those who may be suffering a particular stressful time in their lives.....other causes are side effects to medication or perhaps as a result of an illness...conditions like sleep apnoea or emotional stresses or depression or like our friend shadec (wocha shadec) extraneous conditions like a noisy environment with no hiding place !..Fortunately, for the most part...."insomnia" (and there are many types) is usually temporary...which is nice !.......for me ...this temporal phase has now lasted 39 years !...

5 days is the longest I have gone without sleep.....and I mean without even a couple of minutes unconsciousness....and like shadec the hallucinations are very real...as is also (in my case) paranoia, extreme irritation, euphoric highs then miserable lows....not surprisingly there's confusion and extreme difficulty in trying to concentrate...effectively, you become a wreck !!...with me, the hallucinations are crabs and spiders in the peripheral vision.

Anyway, as far as why we hallucinate after protracted sleep deprivation is something I can only speculate.....perhaps they are like waking dreams.....the brain is misfiring...the portion which needs sleep has been deprived and meltdown occurs.....with a lack of cognitive reasoning and concentration it's no surprise to me that images and senses manifest themselves.To add to my list of symptoms after a few days of no sleep I've also found the hallucinations to be audible and olfactoral (is that a word ?) and tactile too.........Fact is...I do not know but hope that my guestimates may be in the right ball park.As far as the biology of it is..I have not got a clue !

For your information I am writing this after being awake now for 40 hours !..lucky me eh ?........I guess there are other things I could say but I'm too knackered to recollect right now !


I recently advised a gentleman for a magazine who attempted to stay awake for 5 days...he managed 3.5 days......not bad at all and his article( BIZARRE Issue 162 May 2010) makes for a very interesting read.

I would certainly like to know why sleep deprivation kills you...maybe the brain just can no longer regulate the body functions......I think the record for staying awake is something like 11 days....
 

Offline Beaker

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Why is sleep deprivation fatal?
« Reply #3 on: 24/07/2010 00:36:46 »
Good morning to you Sheepy! Been months since I've checked out the forum. How are you?

I'm also fascinated by this question from Shadec and hope that some scientific mind will answer this question soon.

Excellent question by the way Shadec and incredible answer Neil.
 

Offline Karen W.

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Why is sleep deprivation fatal?
« Reply #4 on: 24/07/2010 10:42:08 »
I think in all this lack of sleep your body starts to loose things like seratonin and other vital chemicals that your body produces when sleeping. So with no sleep things start to malfunction as Neil stated...mental confusion, and all sorts of nastiness, I like Neil have had a few episodes of 5 day stretches which were horrible.. most of my insomnia ranges from 36 to 48 hours,, but not any sleep at all in between.
I have had talks with doctors concerning this disease and similar ones..Which so far I am happy to say does not seem to be my problem.

From wiki:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_familial_insomnia
 
"Fatal familial insomnia" (FFI) is a very rare autosomal dominant inherited prion disease of the brain. It is almost always caused by a mutation to the protein PrPC, but it can also develop spontaneously in patients without the inherited mutation in a variant called sporadic fatal insomnia (SFI). The mutated protein, called PrPSc, has been found in just 40 families worldwide, affecting about 100 people; if only one parent has the gene, the offspring have a 50% chance of inheriting it and developing the disease. The disease's genesis and the patient's progression into complete sleeplessness is untreatable and ultimately fatal."


Now some of the things that happen with this disease are:

Wiki also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatal_familial_insomnia

"The age of onset is variable, ranging from 30 to 60, with an average of 50. However the disease tends to prominently occur in later years, primarily following childbirth. Death usually occurs between 7 and 36 months from onset. The presentation of the disease varies considerably from person to person, even among patients from within the same family.

The disease has four stages, taking 7 to 18 months to run its course:

   1. The patient suffers increasing insomnia, resulting in panic attacks, paranoia, and phobias. This stage lasts for about four months.
   2. Hallucinations and panic attacks become noticeable, continuing for about five months.
   3. Complete inability to sleep is followed by rapid loss of weight. This lasts for about three months.
   4. Dementia, during which the patient becomes unresponsive or mute over the course of six months. This is the final progression of the disease and the patient will subsequently die.

Other symptoms include profuse sweating, pinprick pupils, the sudden entrance into menopause for women and impotence for men, neck stiffness, and elevation of blood pressure and heart rate. Constipation is common as well."

You may be interested in this article also noting the other health problems that were encountered and linked to by the people involved in the studies..

http://www.brightsurf.com/news/headlines/56040/Long-Term_Study_Links_Chronic_Insomnia_to_Increased_Risk_of_Death.html

" Long-Term Study Links Chronic Insomnia to Increased Risk of Death
June 07, 2010"

"WESTCHESTER, IL - Individuals with chronic insomnia have an elevated risk of death, according to a research abstract that will be presented Monday, June 7, 2010, in San Antonio, Texas, at SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.

Results indicate that the adjusted hazard ratio for all-cause mortality was three times higher in people with chronic insomnia (HR = 3.0) than in people without insomnia. When examining individual subtypes of insomnia, the risk of death was elevated, regardless of which subtype people reported. The risk of death in the four subtypes was two to three times higher in individuals with: chronic early-awakening insomnia (HR = 3.0), chronic sleep-maintenance insomnia who had difficulty getting back to sleep (HR = 3.0), chronic sleep-onset insomnia (HR = 2.4), and chronic sleep-maintenance insomnia who awakened repeatedly during the night (HR = 2.3).

"The most surprising result was the increased high risk for mortality among individuals with chronic insomnia versus those without insomnia, even after adjustment for all of the potential confounding variables" said lead author Laurel Finn, biostatistician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "The other important finding was the non-differentiation between subtypes of insomnia with respect to mortality risk."

The study involved 2,242 participants in the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study who completed two to three mailed surveys for years 1989, 1994 and 2000. Participants were considered to have chronic insomnia if they reported insomnia symptoms on at least two of the surveys. A social security death index search in May 2010 determined that 128 participants had died during a follow-up period of up to 19 years. Estimated mortality hazard ratios were adjusted for body mass index, age and sex, as well as for self-reported medical conditions such as, chronic bronchitis, heart attack, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and depression.

Finn added that the results emphasize the need for physicians to provide effective treatments for insomnia even in the absence of co-morbid health problems.

"Insomnia is a burdensome symptom and has a negative impact on sleep quality that may lead people to seek treatment," said Finn. "The identification of insomnia as a mortality risk factor may have clinical implications and raise the priority level for insomnia treatment."

The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institute on Aging; and the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health.

The SLEEP 2010 abstract supplement is available for download on the website of the journal SLEEP at http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstractSupplement.aspx.

A joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, the annual SLEEP meeting brings together an international body of more than 5,000 leading clinicians and scientists in the fields of sleep medicine and sleep research. At SLEEP 2010 more than 1,100 research abstract presentations will showcase new findings that contribute to the understanding of sleep and the effective diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea."
« Last Edit: 24/07/2010 10:44:40 by Karen W. »
 

Offline Variola

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Why is sleep deprivation fatal?
« Reply #5 on: 24/07/2010 12:01:16 »
Here is a good video about Peter Tripp, a DJ who attempted to stay awake for 201 hours, it is really interesting to see how he changed both physically and mentally during this process.


There is also an incident of a man committing suicide during a sleep deprivation contest to win a pick up. I can only find a few references to it but it was featured in a documentary. The comp is called Hands on a Hard Body

http://www.documentaryfilms.net/Reviews/HandsOnAHardBody/

http://www.shortnews.com/start.cfm?id=50237

http://www.gunguys.com/?p=35

 

Offline Karen W.

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Why is sleep deprivation fatal?
« Reply #6 on: 09/08/2010 06:44:21 »
Thats so sad! All for a contest! Good links Variola Thanks.
 

Offline DoryT

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Why is sleep deprivation fatal?
« Reply #7 on: 09/08/2010 07:28:14 »
Are sleep deprivation a neurological problem with the reticular formation? i.e. its malfunctioning?
 

Offline Pwee

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Why is sleep deprivation fatal?
« Reply #8 on: 11/08/2010 08:20:19 »
Sleep cycle and the immune system is closely related. Acute sleep deprived mice (not with chronic insomnia but healthy mice who weren't been let to sleep) died from disease eventually.
I don't know if this is due to the excessive buildup of stresshormones that inhibit the immune system fatally, or the immune system needs some sleep recharging.
 

Offline yor_on

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Why is sleep deprivation fatal?
« Reply #9 on: 17/09/2010 09:48:34 »
No, it's not due to the "neurons begin regenerating, thus killing the person" Shadec.

"One of the possible side effects of a continued lack of sleep is death. Usually this is the result of the fact that the immune system is weakened without sleep. The number of white blood cells within the body decreases, as does the activity of the remaining white blood cells. The body also decreases the amount of growth hormone produced (8). The ability of the body to metabolize sugar declines, turning sugar into fat. One study stated that people who sleep less than four hours per night are three times more likely to die within the next six years (11). Although the longest a human has remained awake was eleven days rats that are continually deprived of sleep die within two to five weeks, generally due to their severely weakened immune system (10), (11), (12). "

From  The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Brain and Behavior
 

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Why is sleep deprivation fatal?
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