Is sleep debt a real thing? 3 tips to catch up on sleep

September 29, 2020 3 mins read
Is sleep debt a real thing? 3 tips to catch up on sleep

Yes, sleep debt is real.

Just like you put money in your bank account each month, so should you be topping up your sleep bank with consistent shut-eye.

We know that shaving hours off our sleep here and there is just part of life (read: kids, Netflix, deadlines…), but just like real debt, it’s only a matter of time until you have to pay it back.

Luckily, we’re here to show you how to repay that debt and get you back on track to healthy sleep.

But what is sleep debt?

Sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you get versus the amount you should be getting. In an ideal world, the correct amount of sleep is around 7-9 hours per night. But occasionally, (and we’re not judging, it happens to all of us) you tend to skim off some time here and there, which starts to cut into your usual sleep schedule.

It’s important to note that letting your sleep debt pile-up is the last thing you want to do. Any type of sleep deprivation can lead to more serious health conditions. Even just a little sleep debt can contribute to long-term issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, increased stress levels, and a weaker immune system.

3 Tips to catch up on lost sleep

The good news is that there are real solutions to start paying back your sleep debt and help you get back into a good sleep cycle.

1. Take a power nap

It may seem obvious to replace sleep, with sleep. But even though you’re tempted to take a longer than usual nap, taking a quick power nap will keep your body in sync. (Plus, help you sleep better later that night.)

The ideal nap length should be around 20 minutes and before 3pm. You want to keep your sleep cycle in stage 1 and 2 to enable you to wake up alert. Any longer and your body will go into a deeper stage of sleep which could leave you waking up feeling cranky and seeking more sleep.

2. Go to bed earlier

Try going to bed earlier and wake up at your usual time. Adding 15 minutes per night to your bedtime will gradually shift your body clock back into sync.

Try not to sleep in later than usual as this can throw off your sleep rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep the next night.

3. Tidy up your sleep hygiene

When you’re sleep-deprived, keeping your lifestyle as clean as possible can help your body clock get back into rhythm.

By this we mean: get out into the sunshine (sunshine helps the body clock to regulate as it produces more melatonin), avoid caffeine (or switch to decaf, stimulants are bad for sleep) and prepare your bedroom to be a sleep sanctuary (no screens, please).

When we keep a consistent sleep hygiene routine, we allow our body to recognise when it’s time for bed. So, no matter what sleepless thoughts are running rampant in your mind, your body knows that it’s time to switch off.

Learn to get more sleep

By incorporating some of these tips into your daily schedule will not only help top-up that sleep bank (when you need it), but can improve your overall sleep quality too. Treat sleep as a valuable currency, and you’ll celebrate a rich and healthy life.