Thirty-six hours without sleep doesn’t sound that bad. Lots of people pull all-nighters for fun, for school, for family or for work. When you’re on a deadline or you have a big exam, those extra hours seem like they’ll be incredibly helpful–if you can function.
That’s a big if. Mental Health Channel ran a small experiment on the power of sleep deprivation: four strangers in a house for 36 hours straight, motivated to stay awake for monetary rewards and science. The results were filmed and edited like a reality TV show. It’s amazing to see what a day and a half will do to people who otherwise seem to be kind, intelligent folks.
The three videos in the series span the entire 36-hour experience, from the early hours with a relaxed crew of cheerful participants to the final, desperate hours while they ran down the clock. Sleep deprivation brings with it irritability, physical pain, impairments to memory and self-control, and more.
Now, all-nighters are generally easy to avoid. For most people they’re an exception, not a rule. But lots of us cut our sleep by an hour here and a half-hour there, adding to what’s known as a sleep debt. Carrying a large sleep debt is just as harmful as skipping a night’s sleep, but the effects are more insidious–they come on slowly, until they feel like part of us. This can also compound mental health issues.
If you’re dealing with insomnia, you’re probably already well aware of how hazardous sleep deprivation can be. If you just prefer to spend a little less time sleeping, watch this series. It pairs good advice for getting more sleep with an entertaining reminder of the cost of doing otherwise.