Ever heard of “sleep debt?” The National Sleep Foundation describes it as “the difference between the amount of sleep that you need and the amount that you’re actually getting.” And paying off that sleep debt isn’t as simple as sleeping extra hours on the weekend.
The average American adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, but the American Sleep Association reports that 35.3 percent of people sleep less than 7 hours each night. And according to the National Sleep Foundation, “Forty-five percent of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days.”
Short-term sleep debt is relatively easy to repay. “If you missed 10 hours of sleep over the course of a week, add three to four extra sleep hours on the weekend and an extra hour or two per night the following week until you have repaid the debt fully,” the Harvard Health Publishing website advises.
But if you are chronically sleep-deprived, trying to “catch up” on your sleep with a few 12-hour sleep marathons may sound like a good idea. Unfortunately, that won’t fix things in the long-term. There’s no way to “repay” long-term sleep debt — experts simply recommend changing your habits to make sure you get sufficient rest.
“When it comes to paying down sleep debt, slow and steady is the way to go,” the National Sleep Foundation suggests. “Start by cleaning up your sleep hygiene habits to maximize the hours of snooze time that you get during the week. Even going to bed just 15 minutes earlier each night may help.
Stick to a regular sleep and wake schedule, avoid caffeine and alcohol, exercise daily, and relax before bed with a hot bath or a good book instead of electronics (which can disrupt sleep). A daytime nap may also help you catch up if it’s possible for you to take one regularly.”
Featured image: GP Studio/Shutterstock
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