Doctor reveals his tips for the best night's sleep
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Insomnia affects around one in three people in the UK, forcing millions of exhausted Brits to turn to everything from herbal remedies to prescribed sleeping pills just to get some sleep. While constant tiredness is the most obvious side effect, there are a number of other concerning behaviours which have been linked to a lack of sleep. From your bedroom habits to your immune system, these are the five unusual side effects you should know.
You’re more likely to become unwell
Catching the common cold, flu or falling ill with COVID-19 will leave most people feeling run down, but it can feel even worse if you’re already running on little to no sleep.
Insomniacs risk long term sleep deprivation from their inability to sleep, compromising the body’s ability to produce infection-fighting substances in the immune system.
According to the medically accredited website Healthline, poor sleep reduces the production of antibodies and cytokines which are used to fight bacteria and viruses.
Not only will you be more susceptible to contracting these common conditions, but you could also take even longer to recover from them too.
A lower sex drive
While being too tired is one of the most common reasons for couple skipping sexual intercourse at night, it could be down to a deeper problem.
A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that for every extra hour of sleep a woman receives, she is 14 percent more likely to show interest in sexual activity.
For men who are struggling to get the recommended 6-8 hours per night, low testosterone levels could be to blame for avoiding sex.
Not only could your insomnia make you too tired to even think about it, but it could make it less enjoyable if you do decide to have sex while running low on sleep.
The study found that women who get adequate sleep also report better genital arousal, which plays a significant role in their overall satisfaction when it comes to engaging in sexual activity.
Your nervous system is slower than usual
The internal side effects of insomnia may be invisible to the eye, but they play a huge role in the day-to-day functioning of both your brain and your body.
Sleep is essential to support the normal functions of the nervous system, but chronic insomnia can disrupt the way the body sends and processes information.
Healthline said: “During sleep, pathways form between nerve cells (neurons) in your brain that help you remember new information you’ve learned.
“Sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted, so it can’t perform its duties as well.”
Mood swings, low tolerance and feeling impatient are all common emotional signs that you need more sleep – all of which can compromise your decision-making and creative flair.
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You could experience psychological problems
There is a very close relationship between sleep and mental health, making insomnia a potentially dangerous condition to battle alone.
According to the mental health charity Mind, consistently running on low sleep can trap people in a vicious cycle of stress, anxiety, low self-esteem and difficulty coping with everyday life.
Mind acknowledges a number of issues you might encounter while battling insomnia or sleep deprivation.
- Feeling anxious, depressed or suicidal
- Feeling lonely or isolated
- Struggling to concentrate
- Feeling irritable
- Having issues with work, friends and family
- Being at a higher risk of having a psychotic episode
You’re at a higher risk of developing a serious health condition
Sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle as it fuels the body’s ability to regulate our metabolism and produce natural substances to support internal functions.
While the short term effects of insomnia are a grave cause for concern, the long term implications can be devastating.
According to the NHS, regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, coronary heart disease and diabetes – all of which will shorten your life expectancy.
The link between weight gain and sleep is one of the main reasons for increasing your risk of long term illness.
This is because sleep deprivation reduces the body’s levels of leptin (the chemical which makes you feel full), and increases the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin.
Running on little to no sleep also lowers the amount of insulin produced by the body which is a known cause of type 2 diabetes.
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