Sleep Health

Is a little sleep debt OK?

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Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, you still need a certain amount of sleep in order to be your best self. By getting the right amount of quality sleep you’ll soon notice how much more you can get done in the day – and how you can enjoy it more too!

However, if you’re finding your sleep debt is accruing interest, you may need to restructure your days so that you can put aside more time for deep, restful sleep. Then you’ll be in better shape to get things done in the daytime without feeling like you’re running on empty.

So you think you can scrape by on a few hours’ sleep, then make up for it with a nap or two? You could be sorely mistaken.

Nearly a quarter of Australians believe they don’t get enough sleep. Many people take naps, with 40% napping at least twice a week.1

You might feel better when you restore some sleep debt with a nap or a weekend sleep-in, but how much sleep can you afford to lose before it begins to have a real impact?

On average, most adults need to clock up at least 7 to 9 hours sleep each night.2

Having said that, sleep requirements do vary from person to person and they can even be influenced by your genes.3 There are also cultural, environmental and behavioural factors that influence when and how much we sleep –  consider the traditional siesta for example, which is a typical way for people in hot climates to avoid the hottest part of the day.4

With so many fluctuating factors around how much sleep is healthy, what happens if you seem to be running on empty more often than not?

How familiar are you with your sleeping habits?

Are you an early bird or a night owl?

It's never been easier to be a night owl. There's the temptation of lying in bed being distracted by your smartphone or even the true time zapper of a Netflix binge. 

Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, you still need a certain amount of sleep in order to be your best self.

So the question isn't how long you’re sleeping for – or more specifically at what time of day – but how much sleep you actually need.

According to the snooze specialists at The National Sleep Foundation, in order to maintain optimum health, you need to be clocking up at least 7 hours sleep and no more than 9 hours.2

While you might think you can catch up on your missed sleep on the weekends with no major side effects, losing 30 minutes of sleep a night during the week can really stack up – and may even lead to some serious problems in the long term.

How can sleep debt affect me?

Sleep debt can really add up and the consequences aren't pretty – a lack of sleep may put you at risk of a host of health issues such as weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and memory loss. In some cases, sleep debt results from insomnia or another underlying condition such as sleep apnea that may require medical attention.5

Not only are the risks of health problems increased, but as sleep debt increases, a person's performance, decision-making and reaction times can also be affected.6

Our 3 top tips to help you fall asleep – fast

1. Take a hot bath.

Ah, now doesn't that sound relaxing? Light a candle, grab a good book and slip into a warm space where your body is encouraged to soak in peace. A hot bath is thought to help you get a good night's sleep because it relaxes your body and mind by slightly raising your body temperature and then, when you get out, you cool down which sets the stage for sleep.7

2. Try a yoga class.

While there might not be a clinical study which suggests yogis get better rest, there’s plenty of evidence to back up how good exercise is for improving and maintaining your physical and emotional health. Research has found that people who exercise report that their sleep improves. They also experience fewer depressive symptoms, more zest for life and less sleepiness during the day.When you're making an effort to get in shape and shake off the stress of everyday life by being more physically active, your sleep cycle may be a natural beneficiary.

3. Get out of bed.

If you can’t get to sleep, hit the restart button on your sleep session. We're not talking about giving up on trying to fall asleep altogether but if you're wide awake and your mind is going a million miles per hour, try this trick. Get out of bed and focus on something else – just make sure it's not staring at bright lights like a TV or a smartphone.

There are some other steps you can take to help get some good quality sleep such as cutting down on your caffeine intake, quitting smoking or using some background white noise to block out sleep-disrupting sounds.9

If these tips don't have an impact and you're still considering that a little sleep debt might be manageable for the time being, consider that it can escalate quickly and may become a long-term health issue.

Get back on track with your sleep, and you’ll soon notice how much more you can get done in the day – and how you can enjoy it more too!

If you've tried these tips and you are still waking up feeling unrefreshed, take our free online sleep assessment. It may help you uncover the reason why it’s happening.

Try our online sleep assessment.

Discover any underlying sleeping issues and learn how best to improve your sleep.

 

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