Insomnia – you may be thinking, ‘I swear, I have so many of the symptoms… I’m always exhausted… so really, do I have insomnia”? Completely reasonable. Before we dive in though, I want to flag: a diagnosis of insomnia does not change your experience. It does not make your condition worse or better, more or less valid, more or less worthy of treatment. However, it is important for you to be aware of the symptoms of insomnia so you can know the answer to this question: “is my sleep normal?”.
Sign 1 of insomnia: chronic fatigue
No surprises here, one of the primary complaints of insomnia is constant fatigue. This happens because during deep sleep, our bodies produce Human Growth Hormone (hGh) – the key catalyst for muscle repair. In fact, research by the University of Chicago found that 70% of hGh is produced in deep sleep. So – if you haven’t spent enough time in deep sleep, you won’t produce as much hGh, and therefore you won’t feel as energised as you usually would.
2. Making mistakes
Left home without your lunch? Tried to start the car with your house keys? Called your client by the wrong name? Insomnia and making mistakes go hand in hand – and when you can understand the biochemical imbalances caused by insomnia, this makes perfect sense.
Insomnia impairs your frontal lobe – the brain region responsible for decision making, judgment and time management. Hence, lack of sleep contributes to mistakes – so much so that a 2016 sleep survey our Sleep Health Foundation found that 29% of workplace errors can be directly attributed to fatigue… yes… almost ⅓.. If that’s you, please do not feel like there is something wrong with you – your body is just trying to communicate to you, ‘help me sleep’
3. Sign 3 of insomnia: brain fog
Insomnia and brain fog also go hand in hand – and for my clients, Brain fog is synonymous with sleeplessness. This is attributed to a consequence of insomnia: build up of beta amyloid. As noted in a 2018 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, each night you don’t sleep enough, your levels of beta-amyloid (Aβ), a neurotoxin that contributes to brain fog, impaired memory and even Alzheimer’s disease, increases by 5 per cent. This happens each night, let alone after weeks, months or years of insufficient sleep. This explains why so many of those with insomnia symptoms and an insomnia diagnosis struggle to think clearly.
4. Lack of productivity
Insomnia symptoms like brain fog, making mistakes and fatigue inevitably lead to poor productivity. In fact, according to a 2017 study, sleeping less than five hours makes us four times less productive. So… an hour task takes four hours.
5. Sign 5 of insomnia: feeling anxious and being unable to ‘switch off’
Anxiety is something I personally face and ill attest – From feeling restless to that racy mind that won’t switch off; it can make a seemingly nice experience one that is awful. And insomnia does not make this easier. In fact, research by the University of Chicago found just one night of insufficient sleep can increase stress hormone cortisol by 37 per cent. After two nights, it’s 45 per cent. High levels of cortisol can manifest in many ways, from an inability to switch off, feeling ‘wired but tired’ and mental rumination, right through to feeling overly energetic or extremely exhausted (but little in between), weight problems and a poor immune system.
6. Impaired immunity
When insomnia strikes, we are much more likely to become sick – in fact, four times more likely.
As noted in a 2015 study by the University of California, those sleeping 6 hours rather than 7 are over four times more likely to catch a cold compared to those sleeping 7. Yes, just one hour less escalates your risk of becoming unwell by around four times.
And last symptom of insomnia: Sugar cravings
If that mid morning muffin or 3pm treat seems irresistible, don’t blame your lack of willpower – you’re probably just sleep deprived.
In fact, a 2004 study led by the University of Chicago found that sugar cravings increase by as much as 45 per cent after only two nights of insufficient sleep. In addition, you also have a 28 per cent increase in the hunger hormone ghrelin and an 18% decrease in hunger hormone leptin.
This means you’re hungrier, less satisfied when you do eat, and specifically craving sugar.
So – as you can see, insomnia doesn’t just affect your nights – rather, these symptoms compromise your days too. From your emotional wellbeing to how you show up at work, if you’re wondering – ‘do I have insomnia?’ and resonate with this article, then there’s a high likelihood you do.
If that is the case, I have a few recommendations for you:
- Book a session of private coaching with me – or better yet, book two;
- Get my book, so between our sessions, you can continue to sharpen your sleep sword
- Connect with me on instagram, and say hello in my DMs – I’d love to hear from you.
*This article originally appeared on Body and Soul*