6 Ways Insomnia is Affecting Your Day

Dr. Craig Hudson, MD | August 11, 2016

We have all experienced nights in which we have trouble falling or staying asleep and the tired and grumpy days that typically follow. But sufferers of regular insomnia face bigger challenges than those who have the occasional restless night.  

Insomnia affects not only sleep, but daily living in some serious – and often surprising ways.

1. You become more accident prone

Sleep deprivation is a factor in many traffic, as well as on the job accidents. In Canada, it is estimated that approximately 20% of fatal traffic accidents are at least in part, due to driver fatigue. [i] 

There have also been many other larger disasters which have been attributed in part to lack of sleep including Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, the Challenger Explosion and the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. [ii]

2. Sleep loss impairs your ability to think

Have you ever felt a little less “with it” after a poor night’s sleep? It’s not your imagination. Lack of sleep impairs a number of cognitive processes including concentration, alertness, memory and problem solving skills.

People who do not get enough quality sleep frequently have challenges learning and retaining new skills and information.

3. Insomnia puts your health at risk

People with insomnia are at greater risk for a number of health problems including heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

4. Sleep deprivation kills libido

Lack of sleep often results in lack of libido for both men and women. Obviously a lack of energy and tiredness makes it difficult to get in the mood, but there is also some evidence that there is a relationship between sleep apnea and lower levels of testosterone in men.

5. It shows in your face

No one likes to be told “you look tired”. Insomnia can do more to your appearance than just give you dark circles under your eyes. When you frequently don’t get enough sleep, it causes the body to release greater amounts of cortisol – a stress hormone that can break down collagen causing dull skin and fine facial lines.

Besides producing too much cortisol, sleep deprivation also inhibits the body’s production of human growth hormone – an important factor in strong bones, healthy skin and muscle mass.

6. It can cause weight gain

Getting enough sleep at night is important in maintaining a healthy weight. It is no surprise that if you wake up exhausted, you will be more likely to skip the gym. Instead of taking the time to make yourself a healthy breakfast, you will likely reach for something convenient – often something sugary like a danish or donut.

There have been several studies that have confirmed the link between sleep deprivation and weight gain. One study that followed 60,000 women over 16 years found that those who regularly had less than five hours per night of sleep were 15% more likely to become obese than those who regularly got at least seven hours of sleep per night. [iii]

If you are experiencing insomnia – or if you simply are not getting to bed early enough – it is not something you should take lightly. Frequent sleep deprivation is about more than simply feeling tired during the day – it can affect your daily living in ways that you may not have considered.

If you suffer from insomnia, speak with a healthcare professional and start taking steps to correct it.