Is it possible to commit a mortal sin while extremely tired?

First off, I’m not talking about killing someone or anything like that. Also, I know that I’m culpable for sins I commit while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. However, what if I’m exceedingly tired? To give an example, let’s say that due to circumstances I’m required to put in a lot extra third shift hours at work. On top of that, due to a couple emergencies outside of work, I get very little sleep during the day. At the end of a three week stretch of extremely busy 15+ hour nights, no more than 2-3 hours of sleep during the day and an exceptional load of stress, I finally get to a day off and sit down to unwind before going to sleep. I pour myself a large glass of milk and grab the box of donuts sitting on the counter. I decide to have two of them which, while a little much, isn’t so much that it would be considered gluttony. They taste awfully good, though, and with each cream-filled bite a bit more of that stress seems to melt away. I nearly doze off while licking the chocolate from my fingers and nearly spill my milk several times while snapping back awake. I finish my second donut, see that I still have over half my milk left, think about having a third donut, look in the box and find that I’ve actually eaten the entire box. I’m instantly filled with dread. If I really concentrate I can see myself taking the third, fourth, seventh and tenth donut, but I’m so tired I’m not sure if I really made a conscious decision to do so, and I can’t really recall anything that went through my head when I was eating the donuts. I may have willfully taken the donuts, but then again my hand may have gotten into a rhythm and just kept grabbing one after another. I’m literally so tired that I can’t tell for sure. If I got so drunk I half-blacked out and ate a whole pizza and a pack of hot dogs, I’d confess to gluttony (on top of the drunkenness, a state I willfully put myself into), but in the case of utter fatigue (I had not control over my hours, the other stress or my inability to sleep), would eating the box of donuts really be a sin?

This is just a guess on my part, but since there is not sufficient reflection and full consent of the will, I would guess that eating a lot of donuts in this case is not a mortal sin. However, it indicates a lack of prudence on your part when you have put yourself in such a situation. This may be what is wrong here. It is best to consult with your spiritual advisor or confessor.

You think that eating 10 doughnuts is a mortal sin?

The donuts were just an example, although gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. My question is that, if I do something sinful while in a state of utter exhaustion, is it a sin? I’ve had several times where I did something that under normal circumstances I would certainly consider to be a sin, but due to my state of prolonged sleeplessness, usually coupled with stress and physical and/or mental exhaustion, I later questioned whether I was in a state to make a conscious, willful decision. I couldn’t clearly remember my mental state or any sort of internal dialogue that might have gone on, so I couldn’t even say for sure that any of the things I did were even done intentionally. At the same time, since I couldn’t remember things clearly thanks to how tired I was, I also couldn’t say that whatever I did was a conscious decision at the time, just while I was in a severely impaired state. I don’t think I can equate it with drunkenness because I didn’t choose to put myself in those situations (I was told I had to work), and I wasn’t responsible for the other influences (the household emergencies and subsequent sleeplessness). I’m leaning toward thinking that these situations weren’t sinful but I was hoping to get some input from others as well.

Is it POSSIBLE? one must say yes it is possible.
Is it Likely? No.

As with all such questions they are best discussed with your confessor.

As to the particular example offered…it seems apparent that, since you cannot remember eating the extra donuts just minutes after having done so, it can hardly be considered a conscious choice. In that particular scenario, you were eating while asleep - or at least semi-asleep.


As a related example, I have missed Mass on a few occasions because I have been so exhausted that I felt unwell, or because one or more of my young children are that exhausted. It wasn’t that we were sick, but we were not functioning well enough to be upright and mobile, so we went back to bed.

Under normal circumstances, missing Mass on a Sunday could be a mortal sin, but in some cases, although it remains objectively grave matter, it would not be a mortal sin. Perhaps a similar thought process would work here?

What does a body need when totally exhausted? Sleep, water, and food. So, eating a very large meal might happen without sin, whereas at other times, it might be quite gluttonous. But the body being so exhausted could lead to reduced culpability if one is less able to moderate how virtuously one meets the vital needs of the body.

So, I think in the situation described, overeating in a drowsy state is not likely to be a mortal sin, because your body currently had extraordinary needs and you were just less able to moderate how you meet a vital need (like food, water, sleep). Similar to how a person might oversleep or go into work late or miss Mass because of sheer exhaustion.

I hope you feel more rested soon!

I sounds to me like no matter how busy you are, one should not forget to eat proper meals. Even if only on the “fly”.
Hunger is a real thing, and you can’t be healthy and do a good job for anyone if you haven’t be nourished.
If your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, you should care for yourself well. Not doing so would be a sin, IMHO.

well, just in case, gluttony is usually venial when you don’t seriously damage anyone.

and a priest once told me there are times when we eat a little bit more, than usually.

also there are times for everything, for eating junk food, healthy food, etc.

It is highly unlikely for you to commit a mortal sin unless you intentionally put yourself at a high risk of committing such a sin before getting tired. For example: let’s say you stayed out all night partying (assuming no alcohol; you’re the designated driver), but you decided to drive home at 4 am after 6 hours of dancing, disregarding the risks of doing so. On the drive home, you fall asleep at the wheel and put yourself in the ER crashing into a tree (but your friends, who had been drinking, were better off, albeit still endangered in the crash). I would argue that, although you weren’t in the right state to decide whether or not you could drive once 4 am hit, you still put yourself at such a risk.

However, most of the time, any “sins” or actual sins you commit while being extremely tired will probably be at such a reduced consciousness that they can’t be mortal. And you can’t sin while sleeping, period.

Yes it is possible to commit a mortal sin while extremely tired.

Mortal sin is something done out of obstinate rebellion. It is not something performed by accident - ever. An accidental mortal sin is an oxymoron.

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