What if I told you that we have a fully functional bank processing within each and everyone of us. That's right, it might not just be Halifax that you can get into debt with. However, this bank is special, it runs off the energy generated by sleep and trust me... It's not something you want to get into trouble with.
Sleep debt or sleep deficit in the simplest terms is the difference between the amount of sleep your body needs and the amount in which you actually get. For demonstration, if your body needs 8 hours of sleep per night but you only get 6 hours of sleep, then you have two hours of sleep debt. Keep that same pattern up for a week, you’ll have accumulated a pretty big debt to repay.
Now, accumulating sleep debt doesn’t always result in the feeling of tiredness. In fact research has demonstrated that people can cognitively adapt to chronic sleep deprivation where they don’t particularly feel sleepy even though their body is showing significant decline in physical and mental performance.
Defaulting on this debt on a regular basis increases the risk of:
Diabetes Metabolic dysregulation Tiredness
Hypertensions Weight gain Lack of concentration
Heart disease Impaired memory High blood pressure
Stroke Weakened immune system Anxiety/depression
If that's not enough to get you motivated to make some changes to your lifestyle, then the fact that sleep debt left unchecked can result in it being chronic should be! That's like your body declaring bankruptcy!
So how can we prevent this in the first place? I hear you screaming at your screen. Well it's pretty simple actually.
DON’T GET YOURSELF INTO DEBT!
Easier said than done I know but here are a few tips to keep you out of debt and your body currency nice and stable.
Understand how much sleep your body actually needs
Make sleep a priority in your wellbeing care. Now the amount of sleep needed per night does vary person to person but the majority of adults will need between 7 to 9 hours per night. To figure out how much your body needs you can experiment with different lengths of sleep and take note of how you feel the next day.
Alternatively, you can allow your body to sleep as much as it needs over a period of days and you’ll find your body will naturally fall into its optimal sleeping rhythm.
Keep a sleep schedule
Get into the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day of the week. Even on your days off! And if you do decide to have a lay in, then try not to sleep later than two hours after your normal wakeup time.
Develop a night routine
Start to develop your own little night time routine, whether that's meditating, light stretching, reading or something else. As long as it's not too strenuous on your body.
“Avoid strenuous exercise for three hours before bedtime” - Charles Schafer, M.D.
Having this night routine gives your body the time to relax and prepare for the sleep ahead. It serves as a trigger to our body that we are ready for sleep.
Stay off electronics devices before bed
In our bodies is a circadian rhythm. A 24 hour natural cycle that works with our internal clock to regulate the sleep-wake cycle in our bodies with physical, mental and behavioral changes. This process is primarily activated by light; allowing us to be alert during the day and tired at night.
The issue which arises with modern technology is that the blue light emitted from our devices disrupts this cycle and confuses the body to believe it is still day time, regulating all the systems to keep us awake. Therefore, it is recommended to not use any devices 2 hours before bed.
If you’re really serious about improving your bedtime habits, consider having no electronic devices in your bedroom. This way you’re guaranteed not to get distracted by some midnight scrolling.
Improve your bedroom environment
Give yourself the best chance to have a great sleep. Block out any lights and sounds which could disrupt your sleep and keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature for sleeping, about 15 to 19 degrees Celsius.
Sleep Debt Recovery
Now that's all well and good but what about if you already owe your body some sleep. First off, I know what you’re thinking… miss two hours... sleep an extra two hours. Done. However, unfortunately that's not the case.
To follow structure, just like in an actual bank, your body has interest. Meaning missing one hour of sleep one night, may require an extra hour of sleep for 4 days to fully pay it off! And if you’ve accumulated hours and hours of lost sleep, it will take some time and persistence.
A 2021 study had 13 healthy people monitor their sleep over 3 weeks. The first 10 days involved restricted sleep, however for the remainder of the time, the participants were able to sleep as much as they wanted. During the experiment, the participants had to complete tasks which monitored their reaction and accuracy skills. As expected, after the restricted sleep, participants had a dramatic decline in performance but this only gradually started to increase throughout the remainder of the study. At the end of the 3 weeks, it was discovered that no could reclaim a fully functional brain and all had poorer results from when they first started.
I have some bad news for you.
You can’t recover from sleep debt.. not fully at least. When the body is sleep deprived it misses out on benefits which you would have had if you were sleeping correctly. The main cognitive functions affected are mental and physical healing along with memory processing. For example, when you’re in sleep debt, it is a lot harder to process and retain information and memories from your day, resulting in experiences and learning being forgotten. Additionally, if you take a vaccine while sleep deprived you won’t build up the needed antibodies for it to be effective, even if you make up on the sleep debt the next day your immune system won’t then create the needed antibodies.
However, don’t be discouraged as tackling sleep debt can restore the body to its full cognitive abilities and functions. Ensuring you don’t miss out on any more benefits of healthy sleep.
The main aspect with reversing the effect of sleep debt is to stay consistent. Make gradual changes, like changing your bed time by 15 minutes at a time and keeping a diary to track your sleeping habits. Also, don’t be afraid to consult a doctor when tackling sleep deficit, they might be able to advise you further on the best approach for your body.
Another great tip would be to take an afternoon nap. Now naps haven't yet been proven to reverse the effects of sleep debt but they can help you stay alert and functioning in the meantime. A 25-30 minute power nap is all you need to help improve your work performance, capacity to learn and overall brain function.
Now in business, sleep debt is really bad news. Low energy, burnt out employees means less work finished and work completed to a lower standard. Productivity and efficiency really start to suffer and given that sleep debt doesn’t just vanish, naps could be the savior. Allowing employees to take a short afternoon nap lets them recharge their body and mind for the rest of the working day. Which is why it will come as no surprise, that nap culture is rising in popularity in the workplace. Companies such as Google and Amazon are leading by example and investing in nap pods for their employees.
If you think your business or place of work would benefit from an investment into wellbeing, then we provide a great affordable nap pod, with comfort, hygiene and privacy as a priority. If you want to know more about what we provide at Rest Space. Get in touch.