Almost skeletal silhouette, empty eyes, hallucinations and disorders of almost all body systems. That is how the main character of the movie the Machinist looked like after a couple of months of insomnia. Sleep deficit is devastating both for our body and mind. How serious may be the effects of chronic insomnia? How dangerous are sleep problems? Here are the answers.
Nervous reactions, aggression, mental disorders, cancer, concentration problems and a low libido – these are just a few issues arising in connection to long-term insomnia. What is interesting, the lack of sleep may also affect seemingly not related systems. Swedish researchers conducted a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which conclusions have shown that sleep deficiencies result in body mass gain. As we can see overweight may also be the effect of chronic insomnia.
When sleep does not want to come
As much as two sleepless nights in a row can cause serious consequences mentioned by numerous scientists. Jolanta Orzeł-Gryglewska in her paper “Consequences of Sleep Deprivation” discusses the problems arising from speaking and vision disorders. Hallucinations are frequent effects of even brief episodes of insomnia. The people affected often report an impression that the reality seems to happen completely independently of them. The lack of concentration results in dysfunctions of vocal organs. The speech is slow and it is hard to formulate complex and coherent phrases. Double vision is also a frequent symptom. The above outcomes describe pretty well the daily life of a permanent insomniac. People having difficulties with falling asleep have to be aware that it also affects their skin condition. Chronic sleep problems increase the level of cortisol in blood, the excess of which results in the destruction of collagen, the protein responsible for skin flexibility. No wonder that people suffering from sleep deficits will much sooner have wrinkles in comparison to those who sleep well.
Death due to insomnia
Chronic sleep problems sometimes are so serious and detrimental to our daily life and they may even lead to suicide. It is not a common knowledge, however, that the insomnia itself can also be the cause of death. This extremely rare medical case is known as fatal familial insomnia. It is an incurable brain disease associated with protein mutation that impairs brain regions responsible for sleep regulation. Its first symptoms appear in patients around 50 year of age and arise among family members. They are unable to sleep which subsequently leads to hallucinations, heart and hormonal disorders, loss of weight and a general devastation of the body. What is interesting, the brain is not infected in whole thus the patients do not lose consciousness and they are communicative until the very end. Fatal familial insomnia in incurable and its treatment focuses only on improving the living conditions of the patient. Paradoxically sleeping pills usually lead to a sudden coma. The chance for patients affected by this rare disease is gene therapy but so far, the research in this area is still ongoing.