Arecent report from the British Sleep Council has revealed that we are sleeping worse than ever. The Great British Sleep Report shows that the majority of Brits only get between five and seven hours of shut-eye per night. A third of respondents claim to have suffered from insomnia for over five years, with stress cited as the chief cause.
As stress and anxiety levels rise, combined with an ever-increasing reliance on technology, it gets harder and harder to switch off and attain the longed-for eight hours that clinicians encourage. For some, chronic insomnia is a nightly battle, as they are forced to lie awake alongside a sleeping partner, tossing and turning, unable to switch off.
But how does insomnia affect you on a day to day level?
1) Your anxiety levels increase
Anyone missing out on sleep may find that their cortisol (the hormone associated with stress) levels increase, along with their heart rate. This can lead to increased feelings of nervousness and anxiety, as well as high blood pressure. Sleep neuroscientist Professor Horne notes that anyone already predisposed to anxiety is likely to be most affected by it, as for the most part, insomnia is a symptom of pre-existing stress, which must be dealt with in order to achieve a healthier pattern of rest.
2) Your afternoon dip gets worse…
Due to the body’s circadian rhythms, it’s normal to experience an energy slump in the afternoon, leaving you feeling fuzzy and searching for a caffeinated beverage. Professor Horne notes that anyone suffering from sleep deprivation is likely to find this period extended, leaving them feeling overly sleepy and with difficulty staying awake.
3) …or you might feel overly alert
The link between insomnia and anxiety is well-established, and Professor Thorne points out that anyone lacking in sleep may feel unnaturally wired, rather than tired, during the day. By getting caught up in the pressures and demands of modern life, the heart rate and adrenaline levels increase, and the body does not wind down sufficiently to help you sleep.
4) You start getting angry for no reason
The brain is the organ most likely to be affected by a lack of sleep, notes Professor Thorne. Research has indicated that those missing out on sleep are likely to feel more angry or frustrated than normal, and prone to negative moods. Some scientists put this down to increased activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions. A study indicated that, following sleep deprivation, the connection between the amygdala and the medial prefrontal cortex(the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotional response) of participants was disrupted, meaning that their reactions to negative stimuli were exaggerated, leaving them feeling more angry.
5) Your eyes have it
It’s easy to spot someone who’s missing out on shuteye from the telltale bags under the eyes. Dr Firas Al-Niaimi, dermatologist for skin clinics notes that ‘poor lymphatic drainage and fluid accumulation’ lead to puffy eyes. Dark circles appear under the eyes too; dermatologist Dr Dennis Gross explains that this is because sleep deprivation can cause your body to go into fight or flight mode, in which it draws oxygen to vital organs, rather than the skin. This results in darker, deoxygenated blood, which becomes visible under the thin skin under the eyes.