David is a passionate health, wellness, and fitness writer with vast experience spanning over 10 years.
Why Sleep is Important
Sleep is an essential part of every person's life. It generally helps maintain optimum physical, psychological, and cognitive function. When you sleep, your body and mind recharge, increasing your energy levels and allowing you to remain alert throughout the day. Quality sleep also boosts your concentration and helps you think clearly.
In addition, a good night's rest enables you to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, helping stave off disease. As noted, constant circadian rhythm disruptions can negatively impact your health. As a result, you will become more susceptible to depression, diabetes, cognitive impairment, insomnia, cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. On this note, you should use every opportunity available to get quality sleep and repay your sleep debt.
Getting enough sleep has become increasingly difficult in recent times, causing more and more people to fall into a state of chronic sleep deprivation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently surveyed adults across the United States and found 7–19 percent of this population did not have ample sleep on a daily basis.
However, sleep deprivation is not a concern only among adults. Instead, it affects all age groups. It may be due to tight work or school schedules, the need to become successful and beat rising societal expectations, as well as a growing appetite for technology use before going to bed.
Watching television and socializing deep into the night also increase your chances of not getting a good night's rest and often augments your risk of experiencing a sleep deficit. In some cases, relaxing beyond bedtime, often after a long day or week, can make you more prone to sleep debt.
Nonetheless, it is critical for you to grasp the meaning of this term to understand the best way to prevent or recover from sleep deprivation. Usually, sleep debt refers to the disparity between the quantity of sleep your body demands, often based on your age, and the amount you get.
The CDC generally recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Therefore, if you get 6 hours on a particular night, it means that you have a one-hour sleep debt. On this note, you will likely have a significant sleep deficit over the course of your life if you do not take concrete steps to recover these lost hours of sleep. Consequently, this lack of adequate sleep could cause physical and mental fatigue, negatively impacting different body functions.
Tips on Catching Up on Your Sleep
- Taking a daytime nap - One of the simplest ways to repay your sleep debt is taking a nap. Whenever you do not get a good night's rest, having a nap in the course of the day can help you recover your lost hours of sleep. At the same time, taking a nap can leave you feeling more refreshed and eager to continue with the rest of the day. It can further improve your mood, concentration, memory, alertness, and general mental acuity.
- Sleeping during weekends and holidays - Taking naps might only help you recoup a fraction of your lost hours of good night's rest. However, taking advantage of weekends and holidays can help settle a more significant portion of your sleep debt. Nevertheless, recovering lost sleep may take longer than anticipated. A recent study indicates it usually requires four days to repay 1-hour sleep deficit and bring a person to their optimal performance level.
- Prioritizing sleeping earlier every day - You can also pay off your sleep debt by ensuring you go to bed earlier than the previous day whenever possible. This option can allow you to create more time each day and help recover lost night sleep. However, it might require reviewing your scheduled night activities and eliminating those that shave time off your sleep schedule.
- Extending your sleeping time - Sleeping more every day can incrementally help you settle a substantial proportion of your lost sleep. In particular, adding 10-15 minutes to your usual wake-up time can provide your body with adequate rest and make up for lost sleep. At the same time, overextending your sleeping time is discouraged because it can throw your schedule off balance. On this note, you should preferably add minutes to strike a better balance between paying off your sleep debt and keeping your sleep schedule intact. However, as noted before, it will take several days to recover from even a short sleep deficit.
- Using your vacation to get more sleep - Vacations also present another opportunity to compensate for sleep deprivation. They can provide you time to sleep a little earlier and wake up a bit later. However, oversleeping is not advised because it can interfere with your sleeping schedule, further exacerbating your problem.
Once you have resolved your sleep debt, you should focus on keeping a steady night schedule or routine. Keeping a sleep diary or journal might help you keep track of everything. You can create your sleep diary or download the recommended one from the National Sleep Foundation website. In addition, you should avoid activities that interfere with your sleep, such as taking caffeine before bedtime. If your sleep problems persist, you should see a specialist for better insights and a possible diagnosis
Åkerstedt, T., Ghilotti, F., Grotta, A., Zhao, H., Adami, H. O., Trolle-Lagerros, Y., & Bellocco, R. (2019). Sleep duration and mortality - Does weekend sleep matter?. Journal of Sleep Research, 28(1), e12712. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsr.12712
Basner, M., Fomberstein, K. M., Razavi, F. M., Banks, S., William, J. H., Rosa, R. R., & Dinges, D. F. (2007). American time use survey: sleep time and its relationship to waking activities. Sleep, 30(9), 1085–1095. https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/30.9.1085
Kitamura, S., Katayose, Y., Nakazaki, K., Motomura, Y., Oba, K., Katsunuma, R., Terasawa, Y., Enomoto, M., Moriguchi, Y., Hida, A., & Mishima, K. (2016). Estimating individual optimal sleep duration and potential sleep debt. Scientific Reports, 6, 35812. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep35812
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (n.d.). Sleep deprivation and deficiency. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency
Suni, E. & Dimitriu, A. (2020, September 25). Circadian rhythm. Sleep Foundation. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm
Watson, N. F., Badr, M. S., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D. L., Buxton, O. M., Buysse, D., Dinges, D. F., Gangwisch, J., Grandner, M. A., Kushida, C., Malhotra, R. K., Martin, J. L., Patel, S. R., Quan, S. F., & Tasali, E. (2015). Recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: A joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep, 38(6), 843–844. https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.4716
© 2021 David Mus