Sleep is probably the most important part of our daily living. When we are trying to achieve a time based task or we want to get much done in little time, we feel the logical thing to do is to cut back on our sleep. In reality that is probably the most dangerous thing we can do to ourselves.
The Benefits of sleep
How many hours of sleep do you need?
There is a difference between the amount of sleep you can live on and the amount you need to function optimally. Just because you’re able to operate on seven hours of sleep doesn’t mean you wouldn’t feel a lot better and get more done if you spent an extra hour or two in bed.
Check out this chart; The sleep chart.
You are probably sleep deprived if you;
- Need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time
- Rely on the snooze button
- Have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning
- Feel sluggish in the afternoon
- Get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms
- Get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving
- Need to nap to get through the day
- Fall asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening
- Feel the need to sleep in on weekends
- Fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed
The effects of sleep deprivation and chronic lack of sleep include
- Fatigue, lethargy, and lack of motivation
- Moodiness and irritability
- Reduced creativity and problem-solving skills
- Inability to cope with stress
- Reduced immunity; frequent colds and infections
- Concentration and memory problems
- Weight gain
- Impaired motor skills and increased risk of accidents
- Difficulty making decisions
- Increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems
Balancing your sleep account
Sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you need to function at your best and the hours you actually get. Every time you cut-down on sleep, you add to the sleep debt. Eventually, the debt will have to be repaid; it won’t go away on its own. If you lose an hour of sleep, you must make up that extra hour somewhere down the line in order to bring your “account” back into balance.
Tips for getting and staying out of sleep debt
While you can’t pay off sleep debt in a night or even a weekend, with a little effort and planning, you can get back on track.
- Aim for at least seven and a half hours of sleep every night
Make sure you don’t fall farther in debt by blocking off enough time for sleep each night. Consistency is the key.
- Settle short-term sleep debt with an extra hour or two per night
If you lost 10 hours of sleep, pay the debt back in nightly one or two-hour installments.
- Keep a sleep diary
Record when you go to bed, when you get up, your total hours of sleep, and how you feel during the day. As you keep track of your sleep, you’ll discover your natural patterns and get to know your sleep needs.
- Take a sleep vacation to pay off a long-term sleep debt
Pick a two-week period when you have a flexible schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and allow yourself to sleep until you wake up naturally. No alarm clocks! If you continue to keep the same bedtime and wake up naturally, you’ll eventually dig your way out of debt and arrive at the sleep schedule that’s ideal for you.
- Make sleep a priority
Just as you schedule time for work and other commitments, you should schedule enough time for sleep. Instead of cutting back on sleep in order to tackle the rest of your daily tasks, put sleep at the top of your to-do list.