Fatigue Management a Three Part Series – Do you have sleep debt?

If sleep was a credit card company, many of us would be in serious trouble.

What is sleep debt? It is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep.

In some cases, sleep debt results from insomnia or other underlying conditions that may require medical attention. But most sleep debt is due to burning the candle at both ends by consistently failing to get to bed on time and stay there until we’ve slept enough.

Prolonged and frequent sleep debt increases the risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Mental health issues
  • Weight gain/Obesity
  • Lowered immune system to fight off infection and disease
  • Cancer

The following is a simple test to determine if you are getting enough sleep.

Give yourself a point if you answer YES to each of the following questions:

  1. Do you need an alarm clock to wake up in the am?
  2. Does it take you awhile to get out of bed?
  3. Do you need lots of stimulants (caffeine) during the day?
  4. Do you tend to zone out or perform tasks on autopilot?
  5. Do you sleep longer on your days off?
  6. Do you almost always fall asleep whenever you are in a comfortable place?

If you answered YES to more than 2 questions you may not be getting enough sleep and may be acquiring sleep debt.

The only way to pay back sleep debt is to SLEEP. Pretty straight forward right? Well, no. Life is very busy for many of us so we may not be able to pay that sleep debt back right away. There are strategies that can loan us some time and/or energy until we can pay off our sleep debt. These strategies include:

  • Take a nap that in under 30 minutes or longer than 90 minutes
  • Eat low glycemic foods such as berries, carrots, quinoa, lentils, nuts and fish
  • Drink Coffee when you need an energy boost in the am
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Use a 10,000-lux light box for 30 minutes a day

Source: CSSE