School and work deadlines, a gaming marathon, or a strike of inspiration for a personal project that just can’t wait. There are a lot of times where you might need to skip your bedtime for a day… or three. 

There are risks associated with sleep deprivation, but if you plan ahead you be able to maintain a higher level of overall mental and physical health. 

Before setting out on this journey not to sleep, make sure to know what could happen if you stay awake too long. So for this article, we will cover both how to prepare to stay up for 72 hours and why you should do so sparingly.

How to Stay Awake for 72 Hours

The below tips will hopefully serve you well as hours turn into days.

  • Sleep for 8-10 hours in advance so you have extra energy reserves.
  • Skip the caffeine for several days beforehand to lower your tolerance. This will mean that when you do get tired a lesser amount of caffeine will be enough so you don’t get too jittery or ill on caffeine.
  • Keep your mind engaged; if the activity is boring, turn on some music, a podcast, or do some light exercise every hour.
  • Eat healthy foods that are filling but not heavy, are easy to digestion, and provide vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Let people know you are staying up and have them check up on you periodically.
  • Keep the lights on to suppress melatonin production.
  • Don’t let yourself get too warm; wear light clothing, blow a fan on your face, and splash your face with cold water.
  • Stay hydrated and consume more water than you think is necessary.

After completing your stint of staying awake, your body will need to recuperate. This means taking it easy by allowing yourself 12 or more hours of sleep, and at least 1 or more days of easy-going activities after your long sleep. Afterward, you should feel normal, although getting your sleep schedule back on track may take some more time.

The Risks of Too Little Sleep

If you decide to stay up, whether voluntarily or because you must complete a specific task, you should be aware that your health may be at risk.

In the short-term, if you only stay up this long only once in a while, the worst thing you may experience are confusion, memory loss, slower reaction times, or other temporary issues that you can resolve with rest. 

For people who work in the medical industry and operate any heavy machinery, staying awake can increase the chance of making mistakes that result in death. So if other people rely on you to be coherent and well-functioning, the risks are too great to not sleep for at least a few hours during each 24 hour period.

If staying up is something you do regularly, you may be increasing your risk of disease, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Some studies also link poor sleep with a decrease in immune system function, an increase in alcohol consumption, and an overall increase in mortality risk by 15 percent. 

On the whole, staying up for 72 hours probably isn’t advisable, especially if you have a higher risk of making more mistakes and not using your time well. But, if you do manage to stay awake and get a lot done, only repeat this journey on rare occasions with the right preparations.