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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

Is It Possible to Repay Your Sleep Debt? Why Being Well Rested Matters

Is It Possible to Repay Your Sleep Debt? Why Being Well Rested Matters

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:

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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Can I Repay My Sleep Debt?

If you look at your journal and notice some patterns, including those that lead to sleep debt, don’t freak out.

While you’re not getting enough rest now, you can repay your sleep debt[1] and get back on track to feeling rested and improve your health.

Some people believe that sleep debt can’t be repaid, but studies have shown that parts of it can be repaid. It just takes time.[2]

Repaying sleep debt won’t happen in a weekend. Here are some things you can do to help get a good night’s rest:[3]

1. Develop a Sleep Sanctuary

Having a separate work environment and a sleep sanctuary is important. This will get you up and moving during the day, helping you get rid of some excess energy as well as allowing you to stretch and keep muscles from getting stiff, which can make it easier to fall asleep at night.

Bill Becker, CEO and Design Director of BDI, which manufacturers ergonomically minded office furniture, including a series of standing desks said:

“The workplace can be one of the most challenging environments to adopt healthy habits, given that on average, the majority of workers sit nearly 6 hours a day, burning only 1 calorie per minute. More importantly, prolonged sitting has been known to lead to other health issues such as increased blood pressure, excess body fat and high cholesterol. This is where a sit+stand desk can make a difference. There are many mental and physical benefits to standing desks, and can be a great component of an overall active and healthy lifestyle.”

To create your non-work, sleep sanctuary, you need to have a comfortable bed that doesn’t increase or develop pain in your body. You also need to keep TVs out of the room, as well as computers and other mobile devices. The blue light from these can mess up circadian rhythms and keep you from getting good sleep.

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Only use your room for sleeping, intimate activities, and other forms of relaxation, including reading or meditating. This will train your brain to recognize the space as a place of calm. It’s also important to only go to bed when you are tired.

If you wake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep within a few minutes, you need to get out of the room and go somewhere else. When you are tired, go back into your sanctuary to sleep.

2. Exercise Regularly

It may seem counterintuitive, but exercising leads to better sleep at night. It helps reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can impact how well you sleep. It also increases how deep of sleep you get, as well as improves sleep quality.

Since sleep debt leads to weight gain and other health issues, exercising has the ability to counteract these problems. The better you feel through exercise, the better you’ll sleep at night.

However, it’s important that you don’t exercise within 3 hours of going to bed. This may keep you awake and add to your sleep debt.

3. Only Nap If Absolutely Necessary

You may think that getting in a good nap during the day can help you with your sleep debt. In some cases, it can. But keep in mind that if you’re napping during the day and then finding yourself going to bed later at night or not getting quality sleep, it’s not helping repay your sleep debt.

Sticking to a bedtime routine throughout the week and on the weekends is the best way to ensure that you’re getting enough rest, and more often than not, you won’t need to nap during the day.

While you may be tempted to stay up later on weekends to catch up with friends, family, or the TV shows you missed during the week, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Sticking to a routine is better for your body and your quality of sleep.

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4. Watch What You Put into Your Body

Too much caffeine throughout the day can impact how well you sleep at night. You may find yourself in an afternoon slump after lunch, but reaching for another cup of coffee or an energy drink is impacting your sleep.

Limit your caffeine intake to the morning. To energize yourself in the afternoon, eat some natural sugars such as fruit or grab some protein. You may also consider going for a quick, 15-minute walk to help perk yourself up.

At night, when you’re winding down after a long day, limit the amount of alcohol you consume. It may seem like it’s helping you get a good night’s rest, it’s not.

Alcohol makes it difficult for your body to go into deep sleep, so you’re not getting the quality of sleep you think you are. A few drinks are fine, but watch how much you consume.

5. Skip the Sleeping Pills

When it comes to falling asleep fast, there are a variety of over-the-counter and prescription products to help people sleep. It may be tempting to use these as a quick fix, but keep in mind that these are generally used as a short-term solution.

While some people benefit from taking sleeping aids for a short amount of time, the vast majority of people abuse them, which can be harmful to health and hurt your sleeping ability. If you have questions about the effectiveness of sleeping pills, talk to your doctor.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is important. Humans can’t live without sleep. We need it to be able to function and to stay healthy. Sleep is when the brain and body repair themselves, without enough, you may find yourself feeling groggy, irritable, and unwell.

If you incorporate all of the suggestions above into your routine but still find yourself in sleep debt, you may have another issue that needs to be addressed by your doctor. Talk to them to find the best course of action so you can get a good night’s rest.

Sleep debt is a major concern for a lot of people. Thankfully, there are ways to repay this debt, and getting enough rest is beneficial in so many ways. Here’s to a good night’s rest!

More Resources to Help You Sleep Better

Featured photo credit: Joanna Nix via unsplash.com

Reference

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Dmitry Dragilev

Single-handedly grew a startup from zero to 40 million page views, Dmitry is a role model for aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Tired and How to Fix It

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Tired and How to Fix It

“Why am I so tired?” is a question that people ask themselves pretty frequently. Everyone gets tired at one point or another, particularly after something like an illness, a long night up with a sick child, or a busy week at work. However, when tiredness is persistent—when you feel tired as soon as you wake up in morning or when sleep doesn’t seem to help, no matter how much rest you get—it may often indicate a deeper, underlying problem.

While there are a lot of possible reasons for tiredness, here are some of the most common causes of fatigue.

1. Dehydration

If you’re asking “Why am I so tired?” and want to boost your energy levels, first check whether you are dehydrated. The human brain is 85% water, and it needs to maintain this level in order to perform its essential functions[1].

Signs of dehydration

    If you fail to drink enough water, the brain extracts fluids from your blood to compensate for the deficit[2]. As a result, the oxygen levels in your blood drop, reducing the amount of energizing oxygen available to your organs and tissues. Fatigue and sleepiness set in rapidly, leaving you more vulnerable to the 2 pm post-lunch crash that many of us experience.

    You cannot cure this crash with caffeine; the only long-term, effective solution is to drink hydrating fluids throughout the day.

    2. Lack of Exercise

    A workout will surely leave you feeling even more tired, right? Wrong! As counterintuitive as it may sound, physical activities have an energizing effect. Moving your body releases endorphins, increases your heart rate, and boosts your concentration.

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    Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of medium-intensity exercise every day. It’s easiest if you can make this part of your everyday routine, either as soon as you wake up or right after work.

    3. A Poor Diet

    The food you eat has a direct impact on sleep quality and the amount of rest you get every night. For maximum energy, stick to protein, slow-release carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of healthy (unsaturated) fats.

    The majority of your food should be plant-based, high in fiber, and low in sugar. These choices will prevent blood sugar fluctuations, which can leave you feeling exhausted.

    An easy way to make sure you stick to a good diet is through meal preparation. It’s easy to just get take-out when you’re tired after work, but if you have a meal ready for you in the fridge, you’ll be less tempted by a frozen pizza or cheese sticks.

    Find out more about healthy meal prep here: 10 Meal Planning Apps You Need To Have To Get Healthier Easily

    4. Skipping Breakfast

    Eating breakfast is key to maintaining a good level of energy throughout the day. When you eat breakfast, you are sending calming signals to the areas of the brain responsible for avoiding danger, along with those that instruct the body to conserve as much energy as possible.

    Ingesting food signals to your brain that there are enough calories available to ensure our survival. This encourages it to stay relaxed, which in turn, promotes restful sleep.

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    Some great ideas for healthy, filling, and make-ahead breakfasts include overnight oats, smoothies, and freezer-friendly breakfast burritos.

    If meal-prepping isn’t your thing, stock up on easy but healthy breakfast foods like multigrain cereal, yogurt, and fruit.

    5. Poor Quality of Sleep

    We all know that it’s important to wind down a couple of hours before bed, but did you know that it’s what you do throughout the day that promotes good-quality sleep? It’s not just about the number of hours you sleep, but how restful and deep that sleep is if you want to stop asking “Why am I so tired?”

    To feel rested, try to regulate your everyday routine to make your sleep deeper and better. Get up at a regular time in the morning to ensure that you get regular sunlight.

    Eat nutritious foods in moderate amounts, and make sure you stay hydrated. Go to bed at the same time, and before bedtime, avoid screens that can give off harmful blue light and also keep you stimulated when you need to fall asleep.

    6. Sleep Apnea

    Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where a person’s airways get blocked off while they are asleep, causing their oxygen levels to drop while sleeping[3]. This often causes people to stop breathing at night and then to jerk themselves awake (this can happen over 30 times an hour).

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    Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea

      Because of this, people with sleep apnea can feel short of breath and have low energy levels[4]. Mouthpieces and other devices to aid in breathing can be used to keep oxygen levels in a safe zone.

      If you feel tired all the time and think you might have sleep apnea, consulting with a doctor is important. Do a sleep study, as this can often reveal if there is an underlying problem causing your tiredness — and once a diagnosis is made, treatment to help you get your energy back begins.

      7. Depression

      Depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States (and in many other countries of the world, as well). It is marked by persistent feelings of sadness or unhappiness but has physical symptoms, too. Apart from fatigue, people may also experience changes in sleeping and eating habits and difficulty concentrating that leave them asking “Why am I so tired?”

      Treatment can often center on anti-depressants, counselling, and lifestyle changes, like stress management to help manage this condition.

      Many people also benefit from activities like yoga and meditation, which help regulate both the body and mind.

      8. Hypothyroidism

      If a person has hypothyroidism, they have an underactive thyroid gland that does not produce adequate levels of important hormones, and the result can be a persistent and unrelenting fatigue, even if someone is getting enough sleep. Other common symptoms of this disorder include mood swings, weight gain, and feeling cold all the time.

      Fortunately, simple blood work can reveal if there is a problem, and it can be treated with artificial thyroid hormone pills. Check here for signs of a thyroid problem. If you suspect that you might have hypothyroidism, talk to your doctor.

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      9. Anemia

      People with anemia are not able to make enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout their bodies. This is often due to a lack of nutrients like iron or B-12 and can be caused by problems such as heavy periods, bleeding in the digestive tract, or pregnancy (due to the increased demands of the growing baby).

      However, in most cases, this can be resolved with treatments like changes in diet, iron supplements, or B-12 shots. A simple blood test can tell you if you have anemia, so check in with your doctor if you suspect this.

      10. Cancer

      While you shouldn’t be freaking out about cancer just because you are tired, it is a fact that fatigue is one of the symptoms of cancer. Other common symptoms can include unexplained weight loss and the presence of palpable lumps or growths. This disease is marked by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells that can do damage to surrounding tissues and possibly spread to other parts of the body.

      Diagnosis is usually by biopsy, and treatment often focuses on radiation, chemotherapy or surgery—and generally when a diagnosis is made early, the outcomes for the patient are better.

      Final Thoughts

      If you find yourself constantly asking, “Why am I so tired?” it may be time to see your doctor to find out if any of the problems above apply to you. All of them have treatments that can help improve your quality of life and get you back to normal energy levels.

      More on Overcoming Fatigue

      Featured photo credit: Lily Banse via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Harvard Health Publishing: Fight fatigue with fluids
      [2] NuCara: Are You Dehydrated?
      [3] Sleep Foundation: Sleep Apnea
      [4] Very Well Health: What Is Sleep Apnea?

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