What is Sleep Debt and How to Find Your "Magic Sleep Number"
Sleep is an important part of your health. During sleep, your body has time to rest, rejuvenate, regulate and heal. Good and bad sleep sets the stage for your day, your week and your life.
Adults typically need seven to nine hours a night, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, the average is more like 6.8 hours. Seems close right? What's a few minutes here and there?
Well for those of us who do need eight or nine hours, adding up all those lost minutes equals a lot of time! Each of us can carry a sleep debt. Sleep debt is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep. It can lead to physical or mental fatigue, lack of concentration, irritability, depression, increased appetite/weight gain, and worsening or developing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and even memory loss.
Finding Your "Magic Sleep Number"
So how do we know how much sleep we need? Finding your "magic sleep number" will take a little bit of work and perhaps require a mini vacation. In order to identify the amount of sleep that is right for you, take these three steps for at least a week:
- Go to bed at the same time each night. Make a note of that time.
- Turn off your alarm. Allow yourself to wake up naturally.
- Write down what time you woke up and the number of hours you slept.
For the first few days, you will probably sleep longer because you are catching up on your sleep debt. Pay no attention to the numbers during this time. During the remainder of the week you should start to see a pattern. This number is your "Magic Sleep Number."
Now that you know how much sleep you need, arrange your day so that you can get done what you need to yet get to bed at a time that allows you to hit your magic number.
Reduce Your Sleep Debt
Sometimes it's hard to shift your bedtime. Make small changes and adjust by 15 minutes each night until you reach your optimal bedtime.
Don't oversleep! While it's tempting to sleep in on weekends or take naps, these can interfere with your ability to go to sleep that night. Stick to your weekday routine and use 20-minute power naps as your rule of thumb.
Just as with other changes in habits, make small changes to adjust your lifestyle. Workout during lunch if that's an option instead of after work. Do some meal prepping to help get dinner on the table faster. Think about what would help you get to bed on-time, and work towards those things. One thing is certain, attacking each day with your optimum amount of sleep will help you feel better and keep you healthier.