If you are like most people, it can be easy to fall behind in making deposits in your sleep bank. There is always something on your to do list that seems more important than getting a good night’s sleep. We all seem to think that the amount of sleep we need is negotiable and so we make deals with ourselves to justify giving up a couple hours sleep here and a couple hours sleep there. We look at it as a cumulative total, thinking we can give up a couple hours sleep each weeknight and somehow make up for it by sleeping in on the weekend. But is this actually true?
While the final verdict is out, the consensus across most sleep experts is that you can catch up and balance the totals in your sleep bank, but it isn’t a quick process and you definitely can’t do it in a weekend. According to Scientific American, most Americans average a little less than seven hours sleep each night but need eight hours or more. This means even average Americans are racking up seven hours of sleep debt each week. Just like having too much credit card debt can damage your credit, too much sleep debt can damage your health.
The short term consequences of even moderate sleep deprivation, which could be losing as little as an hour or two of sleep each night for a week or so, are problems with memory, brain fog, drowsy driving, and harm to personal relationships according to the National Sleep Foundation. The long term consequences are even more serious including obesity, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even pre-mature death. With stakes this high, it is important to know where you stand in terms of your sleep debt. Unfortunately for all us sleep debtors, a study published in Sleep, the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies from 2003 shows that the more tired you are, the less tired you feel.
So, if you are knee deep in sleep debt, what can you do? Start by committing to looking at sleep in a new way and use the tips below to payback your sleep debt and get yourself on a healthy sleep budget.
1. While you can repay your sleep debt, it won’t happen overnight and you can’t balance things out in a weekend. Start by adding a few extra hours each night.
2. Consistency is important in any sleep routine, especially when you are trying to catch up. Try and stick to the same basic schedule every day rather than skipping sleep one night and then sleeping more to make up for it another day.
3. To reset your sleep cycles, go to bed when you feel tired and sleep until you wake up naturally without the need for an alarm clock.
4. Be prepared for a few rough nights and understand that it can take weeks or even months to correct an imbalanced sleep routine, depending on how deep you are in sleep debt.
5. For the first few days, expect to sleep 10 or more hours a night but take heart, once you start to pay down that debt, the amount you sleep each night will start to normalize and even out.
6. If you have a serious sleep debt and are suffering from long term sleep deprivation, it can take more than a couple months to turn things around. Commit to getting the sleep you need and to working off the debt you have accumulated and invest in making sleep part of your overall wellness plan, the long term benefits far outweigh the short term costs.
Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients. Our Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists are experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice on sleep and sleep-related disorders. We accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare. For additional information about how we might be able to help you, please contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900.
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