Eight ways insomnia affects the body

The British Sleep Council revealed that our sleeping habits are worse than ever. The Great British Sleep Report concluded that the average Brit manages between five and seven hours per night. A third of participants claim to have suffered insomnia for over five years, with stress cited as the top cause.
As general levels of anxiety and stress are on the incline, add to that our over-reliance on technology, it gets harder and harder to switch off and reach those glorious eight hours of sleep.
For some, chronic insomnia is a nightly battle as they lay awake, possibly alongside a sleeping partner, whilst trying not to toss and turn.

But how does it affect us on a day to day level?


1. Levels of anxiety increase

Those who miss out on sleep find their cortisol (stress hormone) levels increase, along too with their heart rate. This leads to increased levels of anxiety, nervousness and high blood pressure. Sleep neuroscientist Professor Horne notes that those predisposed to anxiety are most likely to be affected by insomnia, as it is pre-existing stress.

2. The afternoon lulls get worse

A lack of sleep makes it all the harder to resist a three pm nap. Due to the body’s circadian rhythm, it is normal to experience an energy slump in the pm, leaving you fuzzy and on the hunt for caffeine or sugar fixes. Horne says that those with poor sleep tend to have longer periods of fuzziness in the afternoons and will have trouble staying awake.

3. Feeling overly alert?

A lack of sleep often leaves people jittery and hyperactive. Anxiety and insomnia are well established as linked to one another. Professor Throne points out that when you lack in sleep you feel unnaturally wired instead of tired. Getting caught up in the demands of modern life, the heart and adrenaline levels soar, and the body does not wind down sufficiently to aid sleep.

4. Anger levels increase without reasoning

Small things suddenly become very irritating after a lack of sleep. Professor Thorne states that the brain is the organ most affected by the lack of sleep. Research has indicated that those missing out on sleep are likely to feel more frustrated or angry, and are prone to negative moods. Some put this down to increased amygdala activity following sleep deprivation. The connection between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex was disrupted leading to negative stimuli becoming more appealing.

5. Your eyes tell a story

A lack of sleep is quickly visible in the eyes. It is easy to spot when a person has not slept enough by the tell-tale bags under the eyes. Poor lymphatic drainage and fluid accumulation lead to puffy eyes. Dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross explains that dark circles under the eyes come about because your body goes into fight or flight when you are sleep deprived. This draws oxygen away from the skin and gives it to vital organs. The result is deoxygenated blood which becomes visible under the skin of your eyes.

6. Your skin suffers

It is called beauty sleep for a reason: sleep deprivation can negatively impact your skin. As you sleep growth hormones stimulate cell and tissue repair. Forgoing sleep can leave you looking haggard as your body is denied the repair opportunity. Dr Al-Niaimi highlights that poor sleep results in poor collagen formation which increases the appurtenance of ageing.

7. Those carb cravings

A lack of sleep makes us feel hungrier. Have you noticed the more overtired you get the more peckish you find yourself? In 2012 a study showed that sleep deprivation increased the levels of Ghrelin, the hunger hormone which left participants hungrier than usual. On top of that, those cravings are for sweet and salty foods. Even more rewarding were fast food items. Dr Ramlakhan adds that not getting enough sleep forces our bodies into a crisis. We start to run on adrenaline which conserves energy and stores fat namely around the middle this is called ‚trunkal thickening.

8. Mental process‚ slow down

Lack of sleep decreased the ability to focus on work. Sleep deprivations are known to have a detrimental effect on cognitive function, as you are overly sleepy and lack concentration. Whilst long-term sleep deprivation affects long-term memory and reasoning, even short-term deprivation has an impact on accuracy and vigilance. This can increase the risk of accidents in the workplace, travel and at home.