Can You Die From Sleep Deprivation?

If you want to be as healthy and happy as you can be, you need to get enough sleep. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleep is vital for physical health, as it promotes the healing and repair of the heart and blood vessels. Sleep is also important for cognitive function and emotional well-being. People learn better after a full night of sleep, and sleep deprivation can alter brain activity, causing a person to struggle with decision-making, problem-solving, and emotional control.

Of course, few people would argue with any of this, but a more controversial topic is whether or not you can die from not getting enough sleep. The answer is a bit complicated. Sleep specialist Annie Miller tells CNET that there "is no evidence that a lack of sleep can directly kill you," and that even fatal familial insomnia, a condition that seems to cause death by sleep deprivation, more likely kills via neural degeneration instead.

However, chronic sleep deprivation can have a number of consequences that may lead to death.

How sleep deprivation can indirectly lead to death

While sleep deprivation may not directly lead to death, it can be an indirect contributor. People who are sleep deprived have a lower life expectancy (via Sleep). Part of this is because sleep deprivation makes a person more likely to develop health conditions such as heart disease, the most common cause of death in the United States. It also weakens a person's immune system, making them more vulnerable to diseases such as the flu. Moreover, WebMD notes that sleep deprivation is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents per year, which altogether cause about 1,500 deaths.

The NIH notes that sleep deprivation can lead to not only personal accidents but even large-scale tragedies such as airplane accidents, nuclear reactor meltdowns, and grounding of large ships. With this in mind, it's clear that getting a good amount of sleep is vital for not only our own safety, but that of everybody around us, so there's no need to feel selfish for wanting to prioritize getting enough sleep.