Why is Insomnia Harmful?

Sleep serves a critical role in health and well-being. Failing to get a good night's sleep is on par with skipping meals or not drinking enough liquid. It's a vital component not only for a healthy lifestyle, but just to function each day. Our brains use 25% of our bodies' energy, despite only being 3% of our body weight. It needs to restore that used energy, and it uses sleep to get it. For this to happen, a typical adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Insomniacs typically get less than five or six hours.

5 stages of sleep

During the course of a night, we usually experience five stages of sleep, often multiple times. If we are constantly waking up or failing to sleep long enough, we won't reach every stage. This causes us to miss out on crucial times for restoring brain energy and other things our bodies need to fight off stress throughout the day.

  • You're drifting in and out of sleep and can be easily awoken. Your eyes start to move slowly behind your eyelids and your muscle activity drops.
  • Your eye movements come to a halt. Brain waves begin to slow down, your heart rate drops and your body temperature falls as your body begins to restore energy.
  • Your brain starts producing even slower waves at this stage. You are much less likely to wake up or be disturbed at this point, and if you do wake up it may take a few minutes for your brain to get back to normal.
  • This is the deepest stage of the cycle. There is no eye movement or muscle activity as your brain and body restore energy.
  • In this stage your heart rate increases, your eyes jerk rapidly behind your eyelids and brain waves speed up to similar speeds you experience during the day. You dream during this state, helping your brain exercise and use connections it doesn't use throughout the day.

Sleep isn't just a time to rest our minds – our bodies need it, too. A stressful, restless sleep can also bring about problems like teeth grinding and sleepwalking. A lack of sleep can cause a bunch of health issues, such as higher blood sugar levels, liver problems, weight gain and severe depression. Chronic insomnia can increase the likelihood of some serious diseases and illnesses, including:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Exaggerated pain perception
  • Shortened lifespan

 

Learn more – how to overcome insomnia

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