Bad sleep tends to excessively undermine the importance of a good night’s sleep. We feel as if we have failed and are ashamed for not being able to sleep normally. Poor sleepers can start ‘covering’ the sleep problems and developing different methods to survive in daily life. All the efforts go to survival and as a consequence social life suffers. However, occasional poor sleep belongs to normal life. Consequences of bad sleep can be severe, yet it’s good to remember that thinking (too much) about sleep is as harmful as the insomnia/poor sleep itself!
1. Sleepiness and fatigue. Fatique is a physical and mental experience where the feeling can be numbing, disorienting, or even depressing. When we are fatigued, we feel weary.
2. Problems concentrating. When normal everyday feels like an effort, it reveals that there’s a problem with concentration. Processing information is not working as it should.
3. Becoming irritable and moody. Insomnia can affect our mood. It makes our attention span very short and we become easy to provoke (causing relationship problems). Sleep problems, fatique and irritability are the three most common health symptoms.
4. Depression. Which one is first: Insomnia or depression? According to latest scientific evidence more often bad sleep comes before depression. However, it’s good to remember that not all insomniacs are depressed. On the other hand nearly all depressed people have insomnia. If insomnia is a consequence of depression, there is a good chance that when the depression lifts, the insomnia will resolve itself.
5. Coping with everyday life. The main impact of insomnia in the daytime is how it affects what we are able to do. We get concerned (and irritated) because we fear making mistakes. Over-thinking sleep in the daytime might make the monster bigger. Instead it’s good to remember that there’s also other ways rest than sleep.
6. Effects on family. Insomnia is a lonely experience, especially if your partner sleeps like a log! A lot of anxieties and worries about disturbing the sleep are typical at the home of an insomniac and as a consequence the sleep patterns start to vary quite a lot causing tension. Feelings of there being a lack of understanding and empathy are usual.
7. Effects on work life. Some recent studies suggest that people with insomnia have more time off work than people who sleep well. Insomnia has high cost on economy but companies put little – or no – focus on treating the problem. People pull back from promotion possibilities and turn down new jobs as they feel new opportunities are overwhelming when sleeping poorly.
8. Effects on social life. Step by step poor sleepers start to avoid also other (enjoyable!) social commitments leading to shrinking social life and feeling very lonely also in the daytime. Needless to say that this is the vicious circle that maintains the insomnia. Living life as normally as possible (including friends and vivid social life) and having normal routines is essential for ‘treating’ insomnia.
9. Effects on obesity. When we are tired, we need extra energy. As we are too tired to do sports or enjoy other hobbies, we often fill that energy gap with food, and especially with food that gives instant energy boost (sugar and carbs).
10. Effects on other diseases. Many believe that insomnia can work as a catalyst and trigger other diseases as we lack normal level of resistance and our immune functions are lowered. However, there’s not yet any evidence of this relationship.
As a summary: Poor sleepers often complain of tiredness and fatique during the day, difficulty concentrating, problems finding motivation to engage anything. Surprisingly often people also complain about not sleeping when they actually have been sleeping (paradoxical insomnia).