Almost every species will suffer catastrophic impairment in the brain and body due to total or chronic partial long-term sleep loss—save for a small handful of befuddling cases where lack of sleep does not cause devastating impairment. While humans are the only species that deprives itself of sleep for no adaptive benefit, there are rare situations where an animal will limit or go completely without sleep. Starvation pushes aside an organism’s need for sleep to forage more widely, while the need to protect newborns can be prioritized over sleep (as seen in the long journeys of killer whales returning to their pods).
Even more remarkable is the ability of birds to stay awake for thousands of kilometers during migration. The white-crowned sparrow, for example, can withstand days without sleep during their migratory period with no cognitive impairment; it has basically discovered an internal biological Iron Man suit!
Please note that Matt is not a medical doctor, and none of the content in this podcast should be considered medical advice in any way, shape, or form, nor prescriptive in any way.
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