Are You Living in Sleep Debt?

May 16, 2012


lifestyle matra brathwaite No Comments

Remember when you were younger and it used to feel like all you ever had was time? Time to do everything, be everywhere. It seemed to take forever for those 365 days to pass – just so that you could celebrate your birthday once again. Time ticked by so slowly that you weren’t just 8 or just 9. You were 8 1/4, 8 1/2, 8 3/4, then finally 9.

As we get older, for some reason, time seems to slip from our grasp faster than ever. In order to get everything that we need done – we sleep less, worry more, ingest copius amounts of coffee, etc. As a result, there are many of us who are sleeping an hour or two less a night which we then try to make it up – mostly during the weekends.

If any of this rings true to you, then you might be suffering from sleep debt. And let’s be clear – debt in all forms is something that we want to avoid at all costs. To break it down: sleep debt = hours of sleep you need per night minus the hours of sleep you actually get. Now, in a perfect world, we would all get to sleep 7-8 hours every night but sometimes we’re just not able to do this.

For the majority of us, we’re able to make up that hour or two that we lose here and there but stop and think about this for a moment: if we continue to keep losing hours of sleep we start to experience daytime drowsiness, mood shifts, stress, anxiety, lethargic feelings and weight gain.

However, there are a few things you can do to keep your sleep debt in check.

Stop stressing over not sleeping.  Listen, you know what’s not going to help you fall asleep? Lying in bed worrying about how much you’re not sleeping. Worrying keeps your mind active and your body tense which will only help in keeping sleep elusive. The best thing to do is drink something warm before turning in for the night – like tea or milk. But not coffee, try to keep your caffeine intake to the mornings and afternoons. Pick up a book or a magazine to read as you lie in bed. Trust me that combination usually works like a 1, 2 punch without the annoying concussion.

Invest in your bed(room). Sleeping on a futon might be economical at one point in your life but eventually you have to upgrade and invest in a comfortable mattress and great sheets. Don’t underestimate how important clean sheets and pillows are to you enjoying your sleep. The same goes for the room in which we fall asleep – things like clutter, bright lights, stale air all contribute to disturbances in our sleep pattern. Set the mood by opening the window (weather permitting) to let in fresh air, use lamps before bed instead of a harsh, ceiling light and by all means clean up. Since we spend approximately 1/3 of our life asleep, let’s make the space that we sleep in calm and soothing.

Turn off the T.V. Now I know there are some people who need to have a television in their bedroom – I am not one of them. It’s too much of a distraction and to fall asleep with that endless stimuli droning into your subconscious just seems unnecessary. I’ve found that listening to some soothing music at a low sound does wonders. I know a few people who even make sleep playlists but try to stay away from pounding bass lines and thumping rhythms – that’ll get you too amped. This is the time to get acquainted with your Mozart & Beethoven – if you enjoy classical music great, if not, you’ll be bored to sleep. Either way it’s a win-win situation.

Develop a regular sleeping habit. If you do the same things every night before bed you can start getting your body ready to fall asleep. You’ll start to have a Pavlov reaction to these little routines so that by the time you lay your head onto the pillow, you’ve already mentally prepared yourself for sleep without even thinking about it. Perhaps, you take a nightly shower, brush your teeth, watch a certain show, then lie in bed to do some quick reading. Listen, it works for little kids – by the time, they settle in to hear the bedtime story you know it’s a matter of time before they fall asleep. The habit helps to create a positive sleeping result.

Remember, we can’t always get the hours of sleep that we want but we just need to be careful that we don’t start to drown in sleep debt so much that we are unable to make up those missing hours of sleep.

Are any of suffering from sleep debt? Do you have any tips or a routine to help you fall asleep?

Image Source: Yelena Yemchuk

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