What Is Sleep Debt And How To Get Rid Of It

Do you struggle to fall asleep at night? Laying awake in bed, your mind running on full speed. But then, during the day, you’re dragging your body around like someone who just came back from the dead?

Well, you’re probably in debt. No, I’m not talking about money problems. Although this is a common issue amongst insomniacs. No, I’m talking about sleep debt. Yes, it’s an actual thing. And now you’re probably wondering what is sleep debt and how to get rid of it. Well, hopefully this article can help bring clarity to the issue and give you the pointers you need to start sleeping smarter.

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

Everyone is different. I know some adults who function perfectly fine on less than five hours of sleep each night. But I bet the effects show on the inside. Poor rest makes for some serious health issues.


Children and young adults need much more sleep than that of a regular adult. They’re still growing and their bodies are going through major changes. More rest is a given. According to The Sleep Foundation, most adolescents need anywhere from 8-10 hours of snoozing each night in order to perform well during the day.

As for a standard grownup, the range is only 7-8 hours. This is more than manageable, but more and more adults are skipping hours, staying up late and waking up early. The more this continues, the more in debt we become to sleep.

For in-depth information, check out How Much Sleep Do You Need.


So What Is Sleep Debt, Really?

sleeping-debtWell, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The more you put off a good night’s rest, the more in debt you become to sleep. Your body is built to require a certain amount of nutrition and rest time in order to function properly. Skipping hours each night will begin to add up and take its toll on your body.

So for every hour you skip, that’s an hour owed. Eventually you’ll owe so much that your body will crash from exhaustion. We often see this in those who work late hours, suffer from insomnia, or have other factors working against them such as a new baby at home.

It’s vital to your health and safety to find the time to get the required amount of rest each and every night.


Dangers Of Sleep Debt

dangerIt’s only logical that poor rest affects our brains and motor skills. Studies show that driving while tired is just as dangerous as driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs. That’s crazy! So why do we do it?

Missing out on a good night’s sleep for long periods of time can also result in some health problems. Everything from cancer to muscle fatigue. When we’re awake during the day, a substance called adenosine builds up inside our systems. Adenosine makes you tired, so the more it builds up the more tired we become. When we sleep at night, our bodies lower the amount of adenosine in our systems, which is why we feel so refreshed each morning. (provided you got 7-8 hours the night before)

Studies show that a high number of work related accidents are due to loss of sleep rather than negligence or poor training. When you’re tired you’re not focused, you move at a slower rate, and your reaction times are way off.

What Causes It?

There are so many factors that contribute to sleep debt, we’d be here all day listing them. And we all have our own issues and hindrances to deal with. But there are the most common ones.

— Insomnia

Insomnia is definitely the head haunch here. Is a debilitating condition where, try as you may, you just can’t fall asleep. A lot of the factors below fall into the reasons why you may suffer from insomnia, but sometimes it’s an issue that needs to be addressed by your doctor. Sleep aids can help set you back on track, although they can be addictive.

— Technology

Technology plays a big part here. Especially in today’s world. Studies show that staring at a bright screen within a two-hour period before bed can force your brain to stay awake. The light stimulates your eye muscles and tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime.

In the same way, technology that is found in your bedroom can prove to cause unrestful nights. An internet modem gives off an undetected signal, but the frequency affects our brains and is proven to affect our sleep.

— Stress

Stress has been there from day one with this issue. Stressful situations will leave you lying in bed night, after night. When we lay down, our bodies relax and our minds wander. Under stress, we wander off to analyze every problem in our lives. Removing toxic forms of stress in your life will definitely help pay off your sleep debt.

— Lighting

Lighting in your bedroom should be dim and subtle. There’s really no need to have bright, crisp lights in there, except maybe your closet. Bedside table lamps and a soft glow bulb over head is really all you need. Bright lights have the same effect as staring at bright screens.

— Mattress quality

Mattress quality is kind of a no brainer here. If your bed isn’t comfortable then how could you possibly get a good night’s rest, right? Our spines should lay as flat and straight as possible when resting. Otherwise, we experience back pain, headaches, etc. all things that can keep you up at night. Investing in a really great, high quality mattress will make all the world of difference to the quality of sleep you get each night.


So to sum up, there are tons of factors that may be contributing to your individual sleep debt. Analyze your life, see what keeps you up at night, and take it step by step. Did this article at least set you in the right direction? Share and comment if you have any questions. Here’s a quick list of reference to help you along.

  • put away technology two hours before bedtime
  • remove any harsh, bright lighting from your room
  • invest in a good mattress
  • work on cutting out stressful things from your life