Sleep Debt: How to get rid of it forever

The term Sleep Debt is one which most individuals are not familiar with. However, if you do below your sleep range on a regular basis, then you have been accumulating sleep debt. Your sleep debt is simply the hours of sleep you get per night subtracted from the hours of sleep you need.

Sleep Debt: Hours of sleep needed per night – Hours of sleep gotten per night

As a young adult, I need anywhere between 7 -9 hours of sleep per night. However, on a busy week I put in about 5 hours of sleep every night. That means, by the weekend, I will be owing at least 10 hours of sleep. An interesting observation is that owing 2 hours of sleep during the week and pulling an all-nighter gives rise to similar levels of sleep debt. This gives rise to similar negative symptoms of sleep deprivation like:

  • Stress (due to production of higher levels of stress hormone cortisol), anxiety and loss of coping skills.
  • Daytime drowsiness.
  • Mood shifts such as increased irritability, depression.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Reduced resistance to viral infections.
  • Reduced productivity.

Furthermore, someone may be wondering, if I can owe sleep during the week, then can I somehow pay some sleep ahead into my account and “withdraw” during the week?

The answer is “No!”

That is because your body has been designed to sleep daily. This is courtesy of your internal body clock. It is a natural, internal system that’s designed to regulate feelings of sleepiness and wakefulness over a 24-hour period.

So, how do you fill the backlog of sleep hours you owe?

  1.  Adjust on your sleep hygiene: Your sleep hygiene is the set of habits that help you to sleep better at night. Adjusting your sleep hygiene makes it easier for you to fall asleep faster every night. For example, adjust your bedroom conditions to be more conducive for sleep. You can screen out noise using an earplug or sound conditioner. Also, dim all overhead lights and lamps about 30-60 minutes before you sleep.
  2. Pay off short term debts: For example, if you are like me, who owes 10 hours of sleep on a typical busy weekend, then you need to throw an extra 3 – 4 hours during the weekend. Then extra 1-2 per night the following week until the debt is fully repaid.
  3. Long term debts: A long term sleep deficit is caused by weeks, months or even years of inadequate sleep. To repay, plan a vacation with a light schedule and few obligations. Sleep every night with alarm clock off. Just sleep until you awake naturally. Do this until you achieve a regular pattern of sleep.
  4. Get back to your Sleep Debt. No. Do not get back to your sleep debt. Get to know the amount of sleep you need. Factor it into your schedule and stick to it.

I’m pretty sure either you or someone you know needs to pay back some sleep debt. Its one of the effects of the fast paced world we live in. However, remember that health is wealth. So, pay up your sleep debt.

How do you intend to act on the information you just received? Please answer in the comment section below. If you have any questions, please click here.