You may think that not getting enough sleep will just make you incredibly tired and a little irritable, but it goes beyond that. It can lead to health problems such as heart disease, weight gain, diabetes, and memory loss.
Most adults have incredibly busy lives. From trying to raise a family to working a full-time job and everything that happens in between, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Instead of going to bed when they are tired, they’ll spend that time catching up on items that weren’t accomplished during the day. While this may seem productive, it is actually harmful and can lead to sleep debt.
What Is Sleep Debt?
The term “sleep debt” is used to refer to continuously losing sleep. This generally happens when you decide to stay up an extra few hours to get a project done or get up early for the same reasons.
Insomnia can also add to sleep debt. In essence, anything that interrupts your ability to get between 6 and 10 hours of sleep each night adds to your sleep debt.
Every person is different, so how much sleep they need varies. Other factors that play into how much sleep a person needs include age, if the person is sick or impacted by chronic pain, amount and frequency of exercise, and if they are pregnant.
Things that can disturb sleep patterns include too much caffeine or alcohol as well as blue lights, which are found in electronic devices such as phones and TVs.
To determine how much sleep you need to feel rested, here is a process you can try:
- Go to bed at the same time you go to bed now and wake up at the same time you normally get up for work. Calculate the amount of time you slept.
- For the next 2 to 3 nights, go to bed 15 minutes earlier than you normally do. Keep this up until you get 7 hours of sleep each night.
- When you’ve been sleeping for 7 hours for a few nights, take note of how you feel. If you find that you are still tired or that it’s hard to wake up when your alarm goes off, go to bed 15 minutes earlier the next night.
- Continue this process until you get enough sleep every night. Your body will tell you how it feels and if you’re getting enough rest.
How Do You Know You’re Getting Enough Rest?
The thing about sleep debt is that people are often so used to functioning with not enough sleep that they don’t even recognize the symptoms anymore. The body and mind are amazing things, and they can adapt to a variety of different situations.
While you may be able to function on not enough sleep and still get your tasks done, you’re damaging your health. Remember, sleep debt leads to heart problems, memory loss, diabetes, and weight gain.
Even though you’ve found ways to cope with sleep debt, your body will give you signs that it needs more rest. Pay attention to these things. While determining how much rest you need, it’s advisable to keep a journal during the day to keep track of the indicators of sleep debt. They include the following.
When you wake up in the morning, record how much sleep you got and how you felt. Note whether your alarm woke you up or if you woke up on your own. Do you feel rested? Do you feel good? Or do you feel groggy?
Throughout the day, record how many cups of coffee or other forms of caffeine you consume to feel awake and functional. How many times do you yawn throughout the day? If you find it hard to stay awake when at your desk, you may be adding to your sleep debt.
You’ll also need to keep track of your body’s cravings. If you find yourself constantly hungry for sugar and/or carbohydrates, it may be because you didn’t get enough sleep. Your body is looking for extra energy so that it can function.
If you find that you’re too tired to exercise, this can be another sign that you’re not getting enough sleep.
At the end of the day (or week), look over your records. This will help you determine if you’re getting enough sleep.