Sleep Debt and How to Recover from It

Sleep Debt and How to Recover from It

Sleep debt, also referred to as sleep deficit, is when you sleep fewer hours than your body actually needs. In other words, it is the difference between the amount of sleep you get and the amount of sleep you need.

When sleep debt goes on for a longer period of time, it can significantly add up and negatively affect your overall health. If you want to learn more about sleep dept, its consequences, and how to recover from it, continue reading below.

What is Sleep Dept?

As already noted, sleep dept is when you sleep less than you need. Unfortunately, sleep debt is cumulative which means that if you regularly get fewer hours of sleep than you should, it adds up and your sleep debt increases.

So, for example, if you sleep for six hours instead of eight, you’ll have a 2-hours sleep debt. If this goes on for a week, i.e. seven days, you’ll have a sleep debt of 14 hours at the end of the week.

Now, imagine how these numbers can increase over a couple of weeks or months and how it can negatively impact your health, as sleep is essential for optimal health.

What are the Negative Effects of Sleep Debt?

In short, if you aren’t getting enough sleep regularly, you might experience the following negative effects of sleep debt:

  • Feeling tired throughout the day
  • Poor focus, concentration, and efficiency
  • Weakened immune system
  • Memory and cognitive issues

According to research, you may not feel tired if you have sleep debt because your body can adapt to chronic sleep loss. Put simply, your body can experience the negative effects of sleep dept without feeling sleepy.

Furthermore, if you have a sleep deficit, you may be at a higher risk for developing some medical conditions which might include:

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity

How to Avoid Sleep Debt?

If you want to avoid the negative effects sleep debt can have on your health, you have to determine the amount of sleep your body needs and improve your sleep hygiene. As sleep needs vary from person to person, you should find out the exact sleep amount your body needs to function at its best. In general, adults need seven to nine hours per night.

And, when it comes to following good sleep hygiene habits, here are some tips that might help you:

  • Follow a strict sleep schedule meaning that you should go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including at the weekends.
  • Develop a relaxing nighttime routine by doing soothing activities like reading, yoga, taking a bath, etc. while avoiding screens and work.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals after sunset so that you can get uninterrupted and quality sleep.
  • Exercise and be physically active throughout the day so that you are tired enough when bedtime approaches.
  • Ensure your bedroom is sleep-friendly by making it dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable.

How to Recover from Sleep Debt?

Last but not least, there are several things you can do to recover from sleep debt. Hence, if sleep loss is unavoidable due to some life circumstances, don’t worry and try to make up for it by doing the following:

  • Take a 10-minute to 20-minute nap to lessen fatigue, boost energy, reduce sleepiness, and improve cognitive function.
  • Sleep more on the weekends to make up for sleep loss but remember that it cannot reverse some of the potential consequences of sleep debt.
  • Reconsider your relationship with sleep and don’t consider it as something you must do, but think of it as preventative medicine and a vital part of your life and health.