There is a lot of information available about what it feels like to be sleep deprived and what happens to us mentally, physically, and emotionally when we don’t get enough sleep. Sleep debt is rampant in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only a third of adults reported getting enough sleep every night for the last month. This means that many people may not realize they are suffering from sleep deprivation because they don’t actually know anymore what it feels like to get a good night’s sleep. When you consider the long-term health consequences of not getting enough sleep, the importance of helping people understand the difference between a good night’s sleep and not getting the sleep they need is clear.
So, what does it feel like when you get a good night’s sleep?
Unfortunately, one night of the right amount of sleep isn’t likely to make you feel different enough to reinforce the need to make sleep a priority. If you are suffering from a significant sleep debt, one night of good sleep is like paying the minimum due on your credit card. It will keep you from racking up more debt, but it isn’t really going to affect your balance. This may be one of the reasons so many of us have lost sight of what it feels like to be well-rested.
Let’s pretend that you have had a complete month of good sleep in a row. How would you feel?
In truth, there isn’t any hard science or a list of signs to look for that tells you that you are getting the sleep you need. In fact, a research team from Australia that went looking to see if there is any truth to the idea that children today aren’t getting as much sleep as they used to, determined that there isn’t really a good measurement of “enough sleep.” Their findings, which were published in the journal Pediatrics, show that historically, we never think we are getting enough sleep, even when we were getting more than we are now. Additionally, the amount of sleep recommended has decreased on par with the decrease in the amount of sleep people are generally getting. What this means is that 100 years ago, we thought children needed about 30 minutes more sleep than they were getting. Today, even though we are getting more than an hour less sleep every night, the recommendation is about 30 minutes more than the average.
This is not meant to suggest that the lack of a clear picture of what “enough” sleep looks like somehow implies that we aren’t sleep deprived or that the current recommendations are flawed or incorrect. It simply means that when it comes to sleep, we don’t have a great measuring stick to help us identify when we are getting enough. Which brings us back to the original question, what does a good night’s sleep feel like? While the general consensus seems to be that you will be more alert, more refreshed, and have more energy, this may be a question only you can answer. To start, pay attention to how you feel on days when you wake up on your own, without external stimulus, since these are the days most likely to follow a good night’s sleep.
- Can You Pay Off Your Sleep Debt? (valleysleepcenter.com)
- Is There a Connection Between Sleep Deprivation and Obesity? (valleysleepcenter.com)
- Are Your Emotions Haywire? Sleep It Off! (valleysleepcenter.com)