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Last Updated on January 31, 2019

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

More by this author

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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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