This article from Time Motto makes the claim that sleep deprivation will result in faster death than starvation.

In the long run, work is not more important than sleep. If you aren’t sure how important sleep is, think about this: You’ll die faster without sleep than you will without food.

However, the article linked to did not make any claims about dying, and instead discusses the drawbacks of sleep deprivation.

A similar Quora question also discusses the topic, but the answers are either poorly sourced or contradictory.

Is it true that sleep deprivation will kill you faster than starvation?

  • It's a science fiction novel, but if you're interested in insomnia you might like Kenneth Calhoun's Black Moon.
    – Joe L.
    Apr 16, 2016 at 22:51
  • sleep deprivation could lead to death from an accident, or not being "with it" enough to find food/water. Apr 18, 2016 at 13:37

1 Answer 1


Not according to current evidence

As long as you drink water and have some basic vitamins, you can survive without eating for a very long time. For example, look at the case of Angus Barbieri, who did not eat for 382 days, more than a year:

A 27-year-old male patient fasted under supervision for 382 days and has subsequently maintained his normal weight

news, case study

On the other hand, this expert opinion on Scientific American, claims that sleep deprivation isn't known to kill people at all.

I am unaware of any reports that sleep deprivation per se has killed any human (excluding accidents and so forth).

  • 9
    Unless you suffer from any of the very rare medical conditions actually preventing you from sleeping, wouldn't you at some point after staying awake for a prolonged time involuntarily fall asleep long before the onset of any critical medical consequences making it impossible to stay awake until you die from sleep deprivation just as you can't hold your breath until you die from suffocation? Apr 16, 2016 at 12:25
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo the expert opinion addresses that, even with medical conditions which prevent sleep, people don't die, but reach a different equilibrium.
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 16, 2016 at 13:13
  • Sure of that? Fatal Familial Insomnia comes to mind. Apr 16, 2016 at 18:32
  • 1
    @LorenPechtel from the article: "Another rare disorder, Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI), is an autosomal dominate disease that is invariably fatal after about six to 30 months without sleep. FFI is probably misnamed because death results from multiple organ failure rather than sleep deprivation. "
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 16, 2016 at 20:02
  • "I am unaware of any reports that sleep deprivation per se has killed any human" I suspect that "sleep deprivation" may not be regarded as a proper cause of death, the same way that old age isn't: which would mean that one doesn't die of sleep deprivation, but one may die of an accident caused by being cognitively impaired of the sleep deprivation, or of an infection because sleep deprivation weakened the immune system etc. Apr 18, 2016 at 20:19

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