I’ve yet to hear an adult tell me on any given morning: “I’m soooo rested. I had way too much sleep last night.”
On the other hand, we’d all be smiling if we had a nickel for every time someone said: “I’m soooo tired. I didn’t get enough sleep.” Demanding jobs, personal relationships, and day-to-day tasks consume our lives. Yet the important task of sleeping seems to fall to the bottom of our priority list. Sacrificing quality sleep, however, could potentially be adding to your sleep debt. And who wants more debt?!
What is Sleep Debt?
Sleep debt is the accumulated sleep that is lost due to poor sleeping habits, sickness, or other causes that affect “peaceful” sleep. This debt can become difficult to “pay back” if it becomes too large. Adults roughly need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Yet according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many adults are not getting enough sleep each night. Nearly 1 out 4 adults do not sleep 50% of the time or more.
The Zzzzzzzs’ Affect on our Health
Quality sleep plays a critical role in our health, weight, and energy levels. Sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, hypertension, negative mood/ behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and/or on the road. Research has also shown that lack of sleep can impair the body’s ability to use insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes.
Tips to Avoid a Hefty Sleep Debt:
· Establish and adhere to a regular bedtime and wake-time. On the weekends, try to rise and “fall” within 1 hour of the time you get up during weekdays.
· Avoid strenuous exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime…but still get your exercise in for the day!
· Avoid alcohol.
· Avoid nicotine (altogether) and caffeine close to your bedtime.
· Establish a consistent relaxing “wind-down” bedtime routine. Smell calming scents like lavender, soaking in a hot bath, listen to calming music or quietness, or visualize relaxing imagery.
· Create an “ultimate” sleep-conducive environment that is dark, somewhat cool, quiet and comfortable.
· Limit the use of sleep-stealing technology (TVs, cell phones, computers) in your sleeping quarters right before your bedtime.
· Eat small portions before bed. Foods with melatonin (oats, sweet corn, and rice) and serotonin (vegetables and other complex carbohydrates) help regulate the body’s natural clock.
· Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow.
· Do NOT take sleeping aids unless discussed and directed by a healthcare professional.
Paying back debts, of any kind, can be stressful and unmanageable. But adding “Quality Sleep” to your long daily to-do-list avoids regular sleep debt. Make it a high priority—your health and happiness depend on it.