Sleep Debt: Do You Have It?

By Brian Wallace

April 12, 2017   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

sleep debt

There is no such thing as catching up on sleep.

Although a lot of people think that they are effectively catching up on sleep, in reality, they are just compromising their health.

Most people need 7 hours of sleep each night at minimum, with 8 hours being the most recommended. Unfortunately, a large number of people get less than 6 hours of sleep each night, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Sleep deprivation can cause problems with memory and attention span. It can weaken your immune system, prevent your body from fighting infections, and even cause you to gain weight.

If these things don’t sound too good to you, then read on to know if you have sleep debt and what you can do about it.

Stages Of Sleep

stages of sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the normal stages of sleep are:

  • Stage 1 – transition from wake to sleep
  • Stage 2 – light sleep
  • Stage 3 – beginning slow wave sleep
  • Stage 4 – deep slow wave sleep
  • Stage 5 – rapid eye movement sleep

Your body typically cycles through these stages from start to finish and then starts over at the beginning. During these stages of sleep, several things happen.

The first two stages are when creativity, intuition, and emotion are at their strongest. This is the time where you experience relaxation and your mood becomes balanced once again.

Stages 3 and 4 are the phases where your body, including your central nervous system, undergo physical recovery from the day’s activities. Your immune system is regulated here and this is, most often, the stage that gets cut short when you miss sleep.

The last stage, REM sleep, is when your mind is most lucid. In this phase, when you dream, your mind solidifies it into memories. This stage is crucial to your learning and skill-building abilities. Because these things are all crucial to your daily life, it’s important that you don’t miss them in your sleep.

See Also: Get Strong, Sleep, Repeat: The Importance Of Sleeping

Keep A Routine

sleep routine

Sticking to a schedule, even on the weekends, is the best way to prevent problems related to sleep deprivation. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day for optimal sleep health.

If certain factors make it difficult for you to get to sleep, you can try creating a more favorable environment. You can use a sleep mask and a pair of earplugs to block out light and sounds. There are many different things you can do to optimize your sleep.

If you do find yourself in a “sleep debt”, allow yourself weeks or even months to make up for it. The longer you are awake, the longer your body needs to be in slow-wave sleep to make up for it. Eventually, if you keep the same schedule, your body will find it easy to sleep and wake up on time.

Sleeping 12 hours on Saturday may sound like a good way to make up for some serious sleep debt. Unfortunately, that can actually be quite counterproductive. When you sleep for more than ten hours at a stretch, your cognitive abilities tend to get lower than if you had not slept at all.

Parents are all too familiar with this problem. Take, for example, babies. It can take parents several months after their baby is born before they can fully adopt a healthy sleeping schedule.

See Also: Five Ways of Overcoming the Problem of Getting Sleep

Being free from sleep debt is crucial to your mental, emotional, and physical health. If you want to stay productive and healthy, make sure to get the right amount and quality of sleep.

You Can

Brian Wallace

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, and hosts the Next Action Podcast. Brian has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019.

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