To function as well as possible, you should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep daily. Did you know, however, that many of us fail to get an adequate amount of sleep?
Females in particular are often burdened by sleep debt. More than 60 percent of females regularly don’t hit the mark. This adds up to hours upon hours of lost sleep that fills up the sleep debit column.
Interestingly, the larger your sleep debt, the more difficult it is to recognize. Once you’re feeling the effects of sleep deprivation, like:
- and headedness
you may not even remember what being totally rested feels like — and how well you feel when you get a good night’s sleep night after night.
As you fall further and further into the cycle of sleep debt, the consequences to your health increase. This puts you at real risk of issues like memory loss, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and more.
Here we look into the causes of sleep debt, if we can repay sleep debt, and a few ways to help overcome sleep debt. If you feel that you’ve built up a sleep debt, know there are things that you can do, including investing in a comfortable bed, such as one with a latex mattress. But first, let’s talk more about the reasons you might be sleep deprived.
Causes of Sleep Debt
You may have developed a sleep deficit for any one or more of the following reasons:
- medical condition
- sleep disorder
- burning the candle at both ends
- back pain or other pain
- motion transfer from a pet or spouse waking you up
- noisy sleep environment
- uncomfortable mattress
- too hot or too cold
- shift work
How We Sleep
Every living creature needs sleep. We’re all programmed to get it. When it’s time to slumber, your body has a couple of ways to signal this. It boosts the circulating levels of the neurotransmitter adenosine, and sends signals from the circadian clock that controls the daily rhythms of your body. Working in unison, these systems create the ideal bedtime.
Adenosine is in part a by-product of the energy expenditure of your body’s cells. As your cells are powering you through the day, this is released into your bloodstream. From there, it’s taken up by your brain receptors that control being awake. This is similar in idea to a dimmer switch, turning down lots of the processes associated with being awake. For example, reaction to physical stimuli, memory and attention.
As levels of adenosine in your brain get higher, you begin to feel drowsier. Because when you sleep you don’t need to expend energy, your levels of adenosine drop. When you’ve had a great night’s sleep, your adenosine levels are at their lowest, so you’re at your most alert.
Why We Need Sleep
Sleep is a basic need that none of us can live without. Tests in lab rats that have been sleep-deprived for extended periods result in the loss of immune function and in death due to infections. Additionally, studies have shown that sleeping for only a few hours a night is bad for your immune system. Not only this, but is can bring on diabetes, high blood pressure and elevate your stress hormone cortisol levels. Interestingly, these changes can be reversed by making up the hours of sleep you’ve lost.
The following problems and life interferences result from building up sleep debt:
- Lack of sleep ages your skin. Inadequate sleep is connected to lack of skin health, and it can also accelerate your skin’s aging process.
- Lack of sleep kills your sex drive. A study from the University of Chicago found that people sleeping for less than five hours per night for longer than a week have far lower testosterone than people who are well rested.
- Lack of sleep makes you gain weight. Various studies have shown that lack of sleep correlates with weight gain.
- Lack of sleep causes accidents. When you’re exhausted, you won’t think straight. Therefore, you should never get behind the wheel when you’ve had too little sleep.
The bottom line is that we all need adequate sleep to function correctly as a human being. So, how can you calculate your sleep debt?
Calculating Your Sleep Debt
You know how much sleep you should be getting. To calculate your sleep debt, you need to take the hours of sleep you should be getting, and to subtract the number of hours you are actually getting. This then tells you your sleep debt for one night. Measure this sleep debt over a week, and you can create a better picture of exactly what’s going on in your sleep deficit department.
Understanding Our Circadian Clock
Your circadian clock is responsible for regulating every function within your body. This means more than your waking and sleeping patterns, but also your blood pressure, body temperature, some hormone,s and your digestive enzyme levels.
Your body clock may make makes you feel sleepy between 11pm and 6 a.m., and a little tired between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. This of course varies from person to person.
An important point here is that if you’re a night owl with a day job, or an early bird with a night job, you might not be following your natural sleep clock, resulting in you developing a sleep deficit.
Can You Repay Your Sleep Debt?
Keeping up with a consistent schedule of sleeping between seven and nine hours per night is the best way to make up your sleep debt. Catching up with your short-term sleep debt is crucial to avoid falling into long-term sleep debt.
- Short-Term Sleep Debt. To recover from not sleeping, you need to focus on the hours you need to sleep as well as the intensity of your sleep. If you’ve missed a few hours of sleep during the week, add some extra hours to your weekend routine, or have a nap every so often. Try going to bed 30 minutes early each night. Stick to a regular routine, and you’ll find yourself feeling far better in time.
- Long-Term Sleep Debt. If you’ve not slept in a while, try getting a vacation, or at least some time off work just to sleep as long as your body will let you. Building up a sleep debt can seriously impact your health. If you’re affected, changing your lifestyle now can help get your body back on track.
How to Sleep Well
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, there are many ways you can try to get a good night’s rest. These include:
- Participating in regular exercise
- Avoiding caffeine after noon
- Avoiding drinking too much alcohol
- Creating a sleep sanctuary
- Keeping TVs, cell phones, and computers out of the bedroom
- Napping only when it’s completely necessary
Can Investing in a Latex Mattress Help?
Investing in a high-quality, comfortable latex mattress can help you overcome your sleep debt. Why? Because sleeping on a latex mattress feels good. It also offers many benefits that help with sleep, including these:
- Isolates motion. How many times per night do you awaken when your spouse moves or rolls over? Because of its zero motion transfer characteristics, latex naturally prevents motion transfer, which means when your spouse rolls over, you won’t feel it.
- Provides elasticity. Latex also has give and springs back, making it comfortable for people with back pain.
- Allows customization. A latex mattress can also be customized for firmness, so whether you like a firm mattress, a soft one, or somewhere in between, you can get the latex mattress that suits your individual preferences. Not only can you choose the firmness of your entire mattress, but you can customize the firmness for each side.
- Keeps the temperature cool. Another cause of many people losing sleep is that they are too hot. Research has supported the fact that people sleep better when they sleep in a cooler temperature. Some mattresses cause you to sleep hot. Latex mattresses do not sleep hot. Unlike many memory foam mattresses that make you feel warm, latex mattresses allow air to flow freely through them. What is the result? You sleep comfortable through the night, without waking up too warm.
- Relief from pain. People who experience back, neck, or other types of pain report that the pain they experience often feels worse when they are in bed. Part of this likely has to do with their mattress. Another benefit of a latex mattress in helping people who experience sleep debt as a result of back or neck pain is that latex mattresses provide excellent support for spine alignment. People who experience pressure point pain often toss and turn during the night, as they find it difficult to find a comfortable pain free position. A latex mattress provides just the right enough of support to naturally hug your body, helping to provide pressure point relief.
If you’re still unable to get the sleep you need at night, or wake up feeling unrefreshed in the morning, you need to speak to your doctor. There are many common medical conditions or sleep disorders that may be responsible.
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