What Insomnia Can Do to Your Mind and Body

One of the most common health problems of modernity is insomnia—or, how it is also often called, sleep deprivation. Its prevalence is caused by the fact that it, firstly, accompanies a large number of mental conditions (starting from regular anxiety and/or frustration, and ending up with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and so on), and secondly, by a number of environmental factors, such as noise pollution. Regardless of the reasons causing it, insomnia is a dangerous condition, being a cause of a wide range of health problems, both mental and physical.

Insomnia greatly affects our cognitive and perceptual abilities in a negative way. Matthew Walker, director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted research revealing insomnia’s influence on amygdala—the part of brain responsible for getting the body prepared for danger. The study revealed that the lack or absence of sleep greatly inhibits the amygdala’s functionality, as well obstructs logical reasoning and basic reflexes, such as the “fight or flight” reflex, memory capacity, and speech capabilities. This is not to mention irritability, worsened concentration, and the danger to fall asleep while driving (NewsWeek).

Widely known are also some other psychological effects of continuous sleep deprivation, such as the loss of concentration, deceptions of perception, thinking integrity violation, hallucinations, and irreversible psychological and neurological damage.

Insomnia affects not only the mind, but also the body in ways no less devastating; specifically, according to a study conducted by the University of Chicago, sleep deprivation is closely connected to the reduced control of blood-sugar levels. This means the lack of sleep can cause the increased risks of diabetes; and the absence of sleep possesses even greater destructive potential. “Сhronic sleep restriction over days and weeks and months is what alters glucose metabolism, nudging it toward the pre-diabetic end of the spectrum […] And sleep loss leads to an increased inflammatory response, which damages the arteries in the brain, heart, and kidneys over time,” explains Dr. Gregory Belenky, M.D., research professor and director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University in Spokane (HealthCommunities).

Apart from diabetes, insomnia can lead to a number of heart and vascular problems. According to research conducted at Columbia University in New York, regularly experiencing a severe lack of sleep can double the risks of developing hypertension within a mid-term period (of about 10 years). “When you sleep, your blood pressure and heart rate normally dip by about 10 to 20 percent […] If you habitually sleep less than the optimal amount, blood pressure and heart rate actually increases over 24 hours, which puts additional strain on the cardiovascular system. Over time, this can gradually reset the entire cardiovascular system so that it operates at an elevated pressure all the time,” says assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia James Gangwisch, Ph.D. (HealthCommunities).

A surprising effect of sleep deprivation is obesity. Although it might seem that these two phenomenons are not connected, in fact there is a relationship between them. According to a 13-year study observing about 500 adults, there was a 7.5 higher risk for people in the age of 27-30 years to develop a higher body mass index due to the lack of sleep (NCBI).

Insomnia (of any sub type) can also lead to early death. The highest risk of early death was observed among individuals with the chronic early-awakening type of insomnia, as well as among those who experienced difficulties with sleep maintenance (meaning these people had problems with the continuity and integrity of sleep, as well as with getting back to sleep once awoken). According to the research involving almost 2.5 thousand people surveyed in 1989, 1994, and 2000, throughout 19 years, about 128 people with insomnia had died earlier than they should because of it (and health problems related to it) by May 2010 (Mercola.com).

As it can be seen, insomnia, or sleep deprivation, is a dangerous condition leading to a wide range of health problems. For instance, prolonged periods of sleep deprivation obstructs cognitive and perceptual functions. It also increases the chances of developing diabetes, cardio-vascular problems, and in general, can lead to early death. Therefore, if one faces such a problem as insomnia, he or she should do their best to solve it as quickly as possible.

Works Cited

  1. Colten, Harvey R. “Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss and Sleep Disorders—Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 03 Nov. 2016. .
  2. “Dangers of Getting Too Little Sleep.” HealthCommunities. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2016. .
  3. “Chronic Insomnia’s Dangerous Side-Effects.” Newsweek. Newsweek, 23 Aug. 2009. Web. 03 Nov. 2016. .
  4. “Chronic Insomnia Linked to Increased Risk of Death.” Mercola.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2016. .
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