Top 6 Side Effects of Sleeplessness - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India

Top 6 Side Effects of Sleeplessness

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 8 Mar 2016 - 11:30


If you fail to fall asleep or keep waking up in the middle of the night continuously for a few days, few weeks or for a longer time, it means you are suffering from sleeplessness also referred to as insomnia. It is a serious disorder that affects you physically as well as mentally and disrupts the quality of your life. Sleeplessness affects all age groups. However, it is believed that sleeplessness increases as we age. The cost of all those sleepless nights is more than just bad moods and a lack of focus. Lack of sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Stress is one of the leading causes of sleeplessness, which can result from health disorders, depression and anxiety. Scientists at the Institute of HeartMath found that stress creates incoherence in our heart rhythms, and when the heart is out of sync, normal sleep patterns can be interrupted. 

Dr Saverio Stranges from the University of Warwick Medical School told TOI (Times of India), "We estimate that 5% to 6% of people aged 50 years and above may be affected by sleep disorders in India. Sleep problems and associated psychiatric co-morbidities like depression and anxiety and reduced quality of life may represent an important factor in these epidemiological trends."

Six Side Effects of Sleeplessness

  • Sleeplessness Ages Your Skin: Many individuals who don’t get enough sleep will observe puffy eyes and pale skin. Also it can lead to lackluster skin, dark circles under the eyes and fine lines. When you lack sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol, ultimately breaking down skin collagen; the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. Dr Phil Gehrman, a sleep expert says, “It’s during deep sleep -- what we call slow-wave sleep -- that growth hormone is released. It seems to be part of normal tissue repair -- patching the wear and tear of the day.” Just one night of missed sleep can lead to puffy eyes and sallow skin. When a person lacks sleep, the elasticity of the skin can also become damaged over time.
  • Lack of Sleep Leads to Weight gain: Sleeplessness is associated with increase in appetite and hunger, ultimately leading to obesity. In a 2004 study, people who slept less than 6 hours a day were nearly 30% more likey to gain weight as compared to those who slept about 7 to 9 hours. A latest study focused on the association between sleep and the peptides that modify appetite and found that “Ghrelin stimulates hunger and leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite. Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin.” However, sleeplessness not only induces appetite, but also stimulates cravings for high-carbohydrate and high-fat foods.
  • Increases Mortality Rate: In the “Whitehall II Study,” British researchers studied how sleeping patterns affected the mortality of more than 10,000 British civil servants over two decades. In 2007, the study showed that those who had reduced their sleep from seven to five hours or lesser almost doubled their risk of death from all causes, especially from cardiovascular diseases.
  • Sleeplessness Leads to Accidents: Serious accidents are often associated with fatigue and lack of sleep. Studies have claimed that driving while suffering from sleep loss is as harmful as driving while drinking and that’s because your reaction times are equally impacted by both activities. Individuals less than 25 years old are particularly affected by this phenomenon, ultimately resulting in a higher risk of injuries.
  • Sleeplessness Leads to Depression: A lack of sleep considerably elevates symptoms of depression. In a 2005 poll, people who experienced from depression or anxiety were asked to calculate their sleeping habits. The study showed that that most of these patients sleep less than 6 hours on the average night. Sleeplessness is frequently associated to depression, with one frequently leading to the other.
  • Affects your Brain Performance: Sleep is very important to the cognitive processes linked with learning. Sleeplessness brings down alertness and attention span that makes it easier to take in information. It also restricts a person's ability to reason and solve problem effectively, which means that people who are fatigued cannot learn at an effective level. Skills that have been learned during the day are converted into memories during the night. Even if you are able to learn a considerable amount during the day, you will fail to remember it in the long run if you do not get sufficient sleep.

Top 5 Solutions for Sleeplessness:

  • If you can’t fall asleep, don’t stay in the bed because it actually reduces your sleep drive. In fact, reduce your caffeine intake, exercise (but not too close to bedtime) and avoid stimulating activities like computer use and TV.
  • In case you wake up in the middle of the night, then try not to switch on the light. This "tells the brain it's morning and it stops producing melatonin," says sleep expert Michael Breus, the author of the beauty sleep. Sometimes you tend to go to the washroom simply because being awake, instead, divert your mind by counting backward, which needs more calculation than counting sheep.
  • If your bladder is full and wakes you up, make sure you don't take liquids after 8.30pm. If you are worried that you may feel thirsty in the middle of the night, keep half a glass of water on your bedside, to avoid getting up for it.
  • Dr Rebecca Booth, an obstetrician-gynecologist and author of The Venus Week, says that its normal for those suffering from PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) or menopausal symptoms to have fluctuating hormone levels, which cause sleeplessness. Dr.Booth recommends consuming melatonin supplements (3 to 5 milligrams) and reducing the carbs in order to keep insulin levels down.
  • If you are truly a night owl, don't fight it. If working night shifts is difficult still, try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, says sleep expert Jodi Mindell, director of the Sleep Disorders Centre at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Don't let yourself drift on weekends or else it will be very hard to get back on schedule. Also, get out in the bright light first thing in the morning, as this will also help entrain your internal clock to an earlier schedule."



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