Repaying Your Sleep Debt. Can You Catch Up on Lost Sleep?
Piling your sleep debt
We all have been there where we stayed up to finish that last episode on Netflix or complete an extra task and thought the next morning to binge-watch more responsibly. While there are a million reasons to stay up late, staying awake only sabotages our productivity and emotional well-being.
If you think debt only exists in the form of loans and credit
card bills, let me tell you that there is another debt that you
need to pay back to your body, something called sleep debt.
Defining sleep debt
In simple terms, the difference between the amount of sleep we should be getting and the amount of sleep we actually get is sleep debt. The term used to describe that deficit is debt.
One cannot oversleep more than one needs and store the rest to compensate for the debt but following a sleep schedule is a disciplined way of life that your body will thank you for.
The value of your Zzz’s
According to Ayurveda, sleep is considered one of the pillars of life and describes how the body’s systems can go haywire when we lose sleep. Every system in the body from the heart and blood vessels to the brain and immune system performs multiple biological processes, gets rid of toxic waste, and repairs itself during the time we are in the sack.
The body’s circadian rhythms control the sleep-wake cycle.
It prepares the body for any expected changes in
the environment like time to sleep, time to eat etc.,. Any
changes to the sleep time disturbs the circadian rhythm.
What is going on in your body when you are snooze-deprived?
Sleep deprivation disrupts the immune system, metabolism, regulation, attention, learning, and memory, and people who get less than 6hrs of sleep a night are likely to put on more weight and attract a range of health issues from diabetes to high blood pressure, mood changes and many more.
Can we catch up on lost sleep?
Our sleep is not very forgiving of being moved to various times as per our changing schedules. Studies suggest that paying sleep debt accumulated on weekdays by making it up over the weekend still makes us pay an extra cost, in terms of increased waistline, weight gain, and changes in how our body uses insulin.
Our body can recover from short-term or acute sleep debt, but the results are inconsistent and so subtle that it can take months for a chronically sleep-deprived person to get back on track.
Few ways to recover from your sleep debt
Know your sleep need: When it comes to sleep, it is generally accepted that 8hrs of sleep is healthy but understand your requirement based on age and genetics. Healthy sleep is both about quality and quantity as our mind gets most refreshed during deep sleep.
Schedule your sleep: Track your sleep and schedule a regular sleep and wake-up time. Ritualizing sleep time helps you avoid the reasons you find to stay up longer. Over time, you will become more familiar with your ideal sleep window as you get accustomed to this routine.
Keep your coffee aside: Getting enough sleep is related to the amount of caffeine you consume during the day. Caffeine interferes with your circadian melatonin rhythm and delays the onset of sleep if consumed close to your bedtime. Avoid caffeine 4 hours before sleep.
Prepare your surroundings: Keep your bedroom completely dark, as light can affect your sleep-wake cycle. Invest in quality shades for your windows and wear an eye mask if ambient light can’t be avoided. Keep your cell phone away from your bed and on silent mode.
Calm your thoughts: Avoid talking about things that can create anxiety or trigger anger, such as a workplace disagreement just before you try to sleep. Instead, schedule your conversations later and get the restful night’s sleep you deserve.
Ayurveda herbs: Usage of Ayurveda herbs like Ashwagandha, licorice, and Gotukola, can calm your nerves and improve the quality of your sleep. Treatments like Shirodhara, where there is a rhythmic pouring of medicated oil over the forehead of a person help reduce stress, calm the mind, and induce better sleep.
We may not be able to pay sleep debt for every hour of sleep lost but it may be enough if we regularly get our 8hrs of sleep and following a proper sleep routine can put us on track to optimal sleep health.