sleep debt

Sleep debt is more dangerous than you know

Are you getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night? Do you enjoy a good quality of sleep? If not, you are one of the thousands suffering from sleep debt. Ironically, the more sleep debt you have, the less likely you are to recognise that you are suffering form chronic sleep deprivation. Part of the reason for this is that sleep debt will affect your attention and alertness so much that you’ll forget what it ever felt like to feel rested and refreshed.

The consequences of sleep debt are not to be disregarded. In fact, sleep debt is becoming something of an epidemic that is affecting all areas of our lives.

The short term effects of sleep debt:

  • Decreased alertness during the day, leading to poor performance at work.
  • Impaired memory, concentration, and cognitive ability.
  • Increased stress affects relationships with others.
  • Insufficient attention or energy to enjoy activities.
  • Poor athletic performance.
  • Higher risk of sustaining injuries.

But that’s nothing compared to the possible long term effects of sleep debt:

  • Heart failure and heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Depression, mood disorders, and other psychiatric conditions
  • Shorter life expectancy


What to do about sleep debt

If you are plagued by insomnia or don’t feel rested no matter how much you sleep, you might have an underlying medical condition. Fortunately, the majority of these conditions are easily diagnosed and treated.

For the most of us though, it simply comes down to lifestyle. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, giving yourself a minimum of 7 hours sleep every night. If you feel that you have accumulated sleep debt, try to sleep an extra hour at night or have an afternoon power nap to help your body catch up on the rest it has been deprived.


If you need some motivation to get to bed earlier, read these quotes:

“What most people do not realize is that better sleep habits may be instrumental to the success of any weight management plan.” – John Winkelman, MD, PhD (professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and medical director of the Women’s Hospital and Sleep Health Center at Brigham)

“Any [person] making a resolution to lose weight … should probably consider a parallel commitment for getting more sleep.” – Michael Thorpy, MD (director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at Montefiore Medical Center)

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