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Catching up on sleep
Has this ever happened to you before? You ended up watching too much TV at night, but have an early morning commitment. It led to just a couple hours of sleep, much lesser than what you need. Then the week goes on, and you’re unable to catch up on sleep until the weekend. However, if you sleep too much over the weekend, it can cause problems going to bed on Sunday night. Since sleep is a restorative activity, allowing your body to recover and your brain to strengthen, it’s important to get enough sleep every night. When you don’t get enough sleep for many nights in a row, it builds up a sleep deficit, which may lead to a sleep debt.
What is sleep debt?
Sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you actually get. When you don’t sleep enough each night, a deficit is created. It grows every night you don’t sleep a full amount and then causes a debt. It’s like when you have a bank account and keep withdrawing money without putting anything in, you’re creating a deficit. Once it gets too much, you’re in debt.
Making up and repaying the sleep debt is not easy. In fact, it takes your body about 4 days to recover 1 hour of lost sleep. There are 2 main reasons why you face sleep debt.
Partial sleep deprivation
This sleep debt occurs when you’re skipping a couple hours of sleep every night. It all starts to add up and before you know it, you’re experiencing a lot of sleepiness, sleep deprivation and feel very tired and lethargic. You may be missing out on sleep due to a deadline at work, watching TV late at night, being unable to sleep due to anxious thoughts… The reasons are endless but the end result is sadly, sleep debt and deprivation. This is why it’s important to have a proper sleep routine, get enough sleep and ensure your lifestyle supports better quality of sleep.
Complete sleep deprivation
This is when you stay awake for a full 24 hours, with no sleep. This is also harmful and creates a lot of slept debt, because you’ve lost out on a full night’s sleep.This usually happens when you have a sleep disorder, facing burnout or in high pressure situations. You’re unable to sleep or you need to stay and keep drinking coffee to keep yourself awake.
How can you fix sleep debt?
Sleep on time. Try creating a sleeping schedule where you go to bed and wake up at the same time, everyday. Follow this even on the weekends. This will ensure you don’t sleep too much or too little, and your body and mind will thank you!
Bedtime routine. Follow a bedtime routine that helps you switch off for the day and prepares you for a night of good sleep. Do something relaxing, non-stimulating and make it a routine, so your body gets a signal each night that it’s time to sleep.
Make lifestyle changes. Following better food and drinking habits at night can really impact the amount of sleep you get. Commit to exercising regularly, avoiding screens close to bedtime, practicing a few minutes of mindfulness every night and not overexerting yourself. As a result, you will be able to get better sleep and fall asleep faster.
Sleep debt is scary, brings a lot of issues including headaches, daytime sleepiness, chance of heart disease, burnout and other health issues when you face sleep deprivation. It’s important to make up for lost sleep in a structured manner, by slowly adapting yourself to getting better sleep, rather than sleeping for 12 hours over the weekend. Keep it simple, steady and see the results for yourself!
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