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How to recover from Sleep Debt

  • 18 May 2019
  • By Kevin Felix

We have all at some point suffered from sleep deprivation because of work pressures or family events. While we try and make up for it later, the damage is still done to the body. Getting good sleep is pivotal to living our best but it is not always possible. The pitfalls of consistently losing sleep especially can be dangerous and needs attention.

Adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night and even 15 minutes of less sleep than one’s usual is enough to add to sleep debt. According to Wikipedia, “Sleep debt or sleep deficit is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep. A large sleep debt may lead to mental or physical fatigue".

The risks of sleep deficit include depression, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and memory loss. For those who haven’t slept properly for long don’t even realize they are tired. In summers it is that much harder for sleep deprived people to cope, with increased fatigue concentrating on the road or at work becomes a challenge. Also while you could try completing your sleep over weekends with no deadlines on the horizon, oversleeping would only further throw off your circadian clock, making the next day tough.

Here are some ways to cope if you think you are a victim of sleep deficit: 

Bridge short-term debt
If you missed 8 hours of sleep over the course of a week, add two or three extra sleep hours on the weekend and an extra hour or two per night the following week until you have repaid the debt fully. You may feel fresh much before completing the debt itself but consciously make up for the time lost to get your body functioning back to its optimum self.

Take a Sleep Staycation to bridge a long-term debt
While you can quickly recover from the short-term effects of temporary sleep debt by sleeping up extra on weekend and following week, remember you cannot go the Rip Van Winkle way and take one extended hibernation session to make up for chronic sleep deprivation. It can take a long time to get back to your natural sleep pattern if you’ve been depriving yourself of adequate sleep for months, you will need an easy-going vacation where you could relax minus any disturbances and sleep naturally every night.

Experts at Harvard Medical School suggest, “you hit restart by taking a vacation with no agenda or taxing activities. Go to bed whenever you feel tired, unplug the alarm and let your body wake you naturally. In the beginning, you may find yourself sleeping for 10 or 12 hours at a time. As the days pass, and as you erase your sleep debt, your body will identify the innate amount of sleep that’s right for you.”

Avoiding the Sleep Yo-Yo
Ensure you do not slide back into sleep debt once in the rhythm, make it a priority. Remember no amount of chasing targets will compensate for failing health. Schedule your day in such a way that you go to sleep and wake up at the same time and get enough time in bed. Stick to a good bedtime routine so you fall off to sleep easily and If you still feel tired after a long night in bed, consult a doctor to check if you have any sleep disorder.




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