Common insomnia effects include daytime sleepiness, psychological changes, and cognitive impairments. The longer someone goes without sleep, the worse these effects can become. Long term insomnia can be treated in a number of ways, including the use of psychotherapy, medications to help people sleep, and lifestyle changes to adjust causes of sleeplessness. Primary care providers can offer some treatments and others may be provided through consultation with a sleep specialist.
During sleep, the body and brain have an opportunity to rest, and some important metabolic processes take place as well. Prolonged sleeplessness can lead to physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms. On the physical side, insomnia effects can include gastrointestinal problems, headaches, daytime sleepiness, and weight gain. Some patients feel that their physical appearance also changes as they go without sleep, particularly around the face.
Emotionally, people who experience chronic insomnia can develop more reactive emotional states. The flight or fight response may end up on a hair trigger and patients can develop depression, irritability, and anger. People may find themselves responding irrationally to emotional situations and can develop volatile moods and abrupt mood swings. These can interfere with work as well as making it hard for people to maintain personal relationships. In people with a history of mental illness, insomnia effects can include an exacerbation of their psychiatric conditions.
Other insomnia effects can include changes in the brain and nervous system. People can become clumsy and develop tremors, and may start to have difficulty walking and completing tasks that need fine motor skills. Reaction times are slowed, a serious problem for people who are driving and operating heavy machinery, and people may have difficulty concentrating and focusing. Insomnia can make it hard to perform cognitive tasks like evaluating situations, doing math problems, and solving puzzles. For people who need to do these things at work, insomnia can become a serious obstruction in the workplace.
Insomnia affects everyone slightly differently. If people are not getting enough sleep and start to notice insomnia effects, they should seek medical evaluation and treatment. There are many possible causes for sleeplessness along with a variety of treatment options. The earlier treatment is provided, the better patients will feel, and the easier the insomnia will be to treat. People should also be aware that while they are not getting enough sleep, they can be a risk to themselves and others as a result of impaired judgment, slowed cognition, and physical insomnia symptoms like tremors.