How many nights have you missed your bedtime due to a big project due at work or to catch your favorite late-night show? If you’re like most people, you promise to make up the sleep by sleeping in on the weekend. You might even think that works. When Monday rolls around you feel great and the world is new again. However, researchers would probably disagree with you. In fact, they would tell you that you still owe yourself some sleep. Instead of catching up on the weekend, you’re actually still in sleep debt.
Everyone needs a certain amount of sleep each night. That’s not always the amount they get though. Sleep debt is the difference between the amount you need to sleep and the amount you actually do sleep. Not only is there no real way to catch up on your sleep debt, the more your body lacks the sleep you need the more potential health problems crop up.
How bad the effects of sleep deprivation are on your body will depend on how long they occur. Short term problems can include foggy brain, impaired vision, and problems remembering things. Not getting enough sleep can also lead to poor reflexes and not having the ability to make proper quick decisions. For example, not getting enough sleep could increase your risk of getting in an auto accident because you’re fighting sleep and your decisions are impaired as a result of negative sleep debt. As you continue to rack up sleep debt you may end up dealing with heart disease, diabetes, and obesity all from the lack of sleep.
Not everyone requires the same amount of sleep. That said, most adults require between 6 and 8 hours of sleep a night. If you’re only getting 6 hours and you need 7, that missing hour will add up. In fact, within a year you’d be missing two weeks of sleep-time. That can have a lasting effect on your health and well-being, but it doesn’t have to last for a lifetime.
Luckily, getting on the right schedule where you get a consistent amount of sleep each night will go a long way to reversing negative effects and to repaying that sleep debt. Unfortunately, sleeping in on Saturday won’t reverse anything, but adding an extra hour or two each night for an extended period will. A good rule of thumb is to let your body be the guide. If you can go to sleep and wake up without an alarm clock, you should! Go to sleep when you’re tired and wake up when your body is ready.
There are also plenty of things that you can do to reduce or stay out of sleep debt altogether.
Keep a sleep schedule
I know it can be easier said than done, but if your body needs seven hours of sleep you need to commit to getting that much sleep. It won’t take long for you to see how beneficial sleep is and it will likely convince you to continue with a sleep schedule that leaves you well rested.
Find the right bed for you
You can get all the sleep in the world, but if you’re doing it on a mattress that is not suited to your body then you may still feel like you’re not getting enough rest. Make sure you find a mattress that is right for your sleep style and any health concerns that you may be dealing with. Luckily, many mattress companies offer free trials, so if yours is not right for you, it will be easier to find one that is.
Consider sleep hygiene a part of good health
Sleep hygiene are the habits and rituals you do nightly to get to bed. These might include shutting off electronics an hour before bed, using your bed as a place for sleep and nothing more, and keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature. These things all help to make sleep easier and that’s what good sleep hygiene is all about. When you promote an environment that is right for sleep you make it easier to find the sleep you need in the amounts you need it.
It’s easy to get sidetracked and try to push sleep to the wayside. This is why it’s important to remember that the right amount of sleep is the foundation to a healthier you. Unfortunately, you can’t really pay off your sleep debt without a considerable amount of work. For some, they will never be able to pay off their debt. However, with the right schedule and a firm commitment to sleep, you can reduce some of the negative effects commonly brought on by sleep deprivation.