Have you ever woken up one day feeling grumpy or unwilling to get out of bed despite much effort? Well, then, you probably had a sleep debt. This condition occurs when you have slept less than your body requires.
On average, the daily amount of sleep needed by age is 14-17 hours for newborns, 12-16 hours for infants, 10-14 hours for young children, 6-12 hours for school-aged children, 8-10 hours for teenagers, and 7-9 hours for adults.
Sleep deficiency usually isn’t a significant problem in limited and isolated amounts. However, researchers show chronic deprivation can cause or contribute to various health-related issues. This article will delve deeper into what sleep deficiency is and how you can repay it.
What Is Sleep Debt?
This is when you get less sleep than what your body requires. It is cumulative in the sense that if you get less sleep regularly, you will suffer from sleep debt.
Say you have five hours of sleep instead of eight; your sleep debt will be three hours. If this persists for a week, you end up having a 21-hour debt.
What Systems Are Affected in the Body?
Sleep deprivation has adverse effects in multiple ways on the body. Many biological processes take place during sleep. For example, despite being asleep, the brain remains relatively active; it can store new information, eliminate toxic waste, regenerate cells, and release molecules like hormones and proteins.
Deprivation of sleep can affect the following body systems, organs, and processes:
- Heart and circulatory systems:
Sleep deprivation has long-term damaging effects on the heart and the circulatory system. People with chronic sleep deprivation are more likely to develop high blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Metabolic systems:
People who do not get enough sleep are likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
- Immune system:
Your body’s natural defense against bacterial infections and other infections cannot properly work if you don’t get enough sleep.
- Nervous system:
It’s pretty common for people who aren’t sleeping enough to have high pain sensitivity. Their tolerability is remarkably reduced compared to people who get enough sleep.
- The brain:
Some researchers have demonstrated that sleep deprivation significantly contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. This is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other critical mental functions.
- Mental health
Lack of sleep negatively affects your mental health, making it difficult to manage and process emotions, thus leading to extreme emotional outbursts. Sleep-deprived persons are more likely to develop depression and anxiety.
What Causes Sleep Deficit?
Several reasons can cause sleep deprivation. Many of these relate to the day-to-day circumstances of your everyday life.
First, there is a high-stress level. If you are overly stressed, you will probably have trouble falling asleep as you lay down overthinking, making you sleep-deprived.
In addition, some professions require one to work odd hours and shift changes that alter your sleeping patterns rendering you sleep deprived. Also, some conditions, including chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, GERD, and Alzheimer’s, can cause insomnia.
Sleep disorders like sleep apnea can give you insufficient quality sleep. Some medications, for example, anti-epileptics and ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) drugs, also cause insomnia.
A very cold or warm room and a noisy place can make you not get enough sleep. On the other hand, heavy consumption of coffee can make you fall asleep later, sleep fewer hours overall, and leave your rest less satisfying.
Consequence of Sleep Debt
Sleep debt can negatively affect your health since sleep is vital. If you do not have enough rest, you may lose your ability to concentrate, impair your immune system, experience fatigue throughout the day, and have a harder time processing new information.
Yet, you might not always feel exhausted due to sleep debt. Researchers have noted that people adapt to chronic sleep restrictions. It means your body may significantly decline physical and mental performance even though you might not feel sleepy. In addition, you will be at a high risk of diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease.
How Do You Repay Sleep Debt?
Sleep debt can happen for many reasons, some unknown and others known. This means there is no specific way to cure it.
Depending on why it happens, it is often a manageable condition. However, it takes many different approaches. Some of the more common remedies for sleep deficit include;
- Sleeping: As simple as it sounds, getting into those bedsheets can relieve you from sleep-deprived symptoms.
- Activity: Another option to repay sleep deprivation is the opposite of sleep, that is, activity. Brief episodes of exercise may help you stay more alert.
- Sleep environment: Improving your sleep environment by reducing noise and putting off bright lights can make you sleep more easily.
- Lower caffeine intake: By lowering the amount of caffeine intake or instead cutting off the intake of coffee, you relieve insomnia symptoms.
- Medications: A variety of drugs prescribed by a physician can help a person fall asleep and stay asleep or change their sleeping patterns.
- Behavior changes: Developing proper and good sleeping hygiene can prevent sleep deprivation.
Sleep may seem natural, but to other people, it is not so natural, and more effort is needed to fall, stay, and get enough sleep. Before you fall off the wagon of your normal routine, avoid risky behaviors and patterns that can lead to sleep deficit.
You need to consider your relationship with sleep to avoid falling into sleep debt and to recover. Instead of viewing sleep as a chore, view it as a preventive medicine. Remember, rest can improve your health and lower illness. So, it is necessary to start looking at sleep as being vital to your overall well-being.