Disturbing slider shows what happens to your body when you don't sleep

It's not pretty

Woman after a good night's sleep / 3 nights of poor sleep / 5 nights of poor sleep
(Image credit: Happybeds)

Not getting enough sleep doesn't feel good. But the physical effects of long-term sleep deprivation might in fact be more severe than you first thought. To highlight the importance of making sure you prioritise your sleep as much as you reasonably can, mattress retailer Happy Beds (opens in new tab) teamed up with sleep psychologist Katherine Hall to explore what can happen to your body after 1, 2, 3 or more nights of little to no sleep. 

The result is an interactive slider that's made no less horrifying by the fact that the figures have been given cutesy names. Scroll down to take a look at what happens to 'Sleep Deprived Sally and Sam’ as they embark on their week of no sleep.

And if all this provides the motivation you need to upgrade your sleep setup, our best mattress, best pillow and best duvet guides will help you choose.

After 24 hours

Illustration of sleep deprived person

(Image credit: Happybeds)

The good news is that one night of little to no sleep won't lead to any major health complications. Not on its own, anyway. You will, however, probably not look exactly fresh as a daisy the following day. The study notes "some visible signs of sleep deprivation, including dark circles under the eyes, puffy eyes, and tremors". 

What's more, you're probably not going to be that nice to hang out with, as you might be angrier or more irritable than usual, and you might also be experiencing food cravings. Finally, and somewhat obviously, the study says you'll be experiencing feelings of drowsiness and fatigue, decreased alertness, and you're more likely to make mistakes, too. 

After 2 days

Illustration of sleep deprived person

(Image credit: Happybeds)

All those symptoms you were experiencing on day one will be amplified, alongside, unsurprisingly, "an increased urge to sleep". As well as serious fatigue, you'll have an increased appetite, increased inflammation, and your immune system will be compromised.

After 3 days

Illustration of sleep deprived person

(Image credit: Happybeds)

After three days with little or no sleep, things are getting quite bad. "At this stage, your urge to sleep will feel unbearable and your perception of reality will be severely impaired and distorted," says the study. It'll really start to show on your face too, with your skin looking pale and pasty, and dark circles showing around your eyes. 

After 5 days

Illustration of sleep deprived person

(Image credit: Happybeds)

After 5 days of little to no sleep, you'll be more likely to get ill, thanks to that compromised immune system, and the increased appetite might be starting to cause early signs of weight gain. To put it politely, you won't be looking your best, either. "Chronic sleep deprivation can severely affect your appearance, with skin sagging and very dark circles and bloodshot eyes," says the study. 

Head to the original blog post (opens in new tab) to find out more, or to try the interactive slider out.  

Ruth is T3's Outdoors editor, reviewing and writing about everything from camping gear and hiking boots to mountain bikes, drones and paddle boards. To counter all that effort, she also runs the site's Wellness channel, which includes sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy, for fear of getting smothered in the night.