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Six ways to manage sleep debt
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Six ways to manage sleep debt

Sleeping for less than the recommended duration may be contributing to sleep debt. Experts suggest some ways to manage this condition

Twenty-six-year-old, Adith KA, a research editor from the Archives department of a newspaper in Kochi, Kerala finds it challenging to get at least eight hours of sleep daily due to night shift. His work goes until 3 am and often manages to get as little as six hours of sleep in a day. Adith is unaware that he may be accumulating a debt that could have a negative impact on his health in the long run if he doesn’t manage it. “Sleep debt” is a term used to describe the accumulation of insufficient sleep due to a person’s inability to get enough sleep, says Dr Pavan Yadav, lead consultant- Interventional Pulmonology & Lung Transplantation, Aster RV Hospital Bangalore.

An average adult human requires around 7-9 hours of sleep a day and if the person sleeps less than seven hours a day, it accumulates as sleep debt, says Dr Anjali R Nath, Consultant pulmonologist, Sparsh hospital, Bangalore.

If you are sleeping less than the required number of hours, it also results in poor sleep quality. Obstructive Sleep apnea, Insomnia, or social factors such as watching TV late at night, working the night shift, drinking alcohol can lead to sleep deprivation and sleep debt. Dr Nath explains, “Even one day of sleep debt makes you feel tired. It can also lead to cognitive impairment such as memory issues and concentration issues.”

Six ways to manage sleep debt 

According to sleep experts, some studies suggest that sleeping on the weekends can help you get rid of tiredness and excess daytime sleepiness. However, sleeping on the weekends cannot make up for your sleep debt. However, you can follow these effective ways to manage your sleep debt, which include:

  1. Catch-up on lost sleep

    Dr Yadav suggests that you can increase the amount of sleep you get over a short period by going to bed early, waking up late, or taking a nap. “Naps should not interfere with regular bedtime,” he adds. If you have sleep debt, you should set a consistent schedule of when you go to sleep and wake up, even on weekends, so that you can get a good night’s sleep.

  2. Creating a sleep-friendly environment

    It is important to create a sleep-friendly environment, as research has shown that a variety of physical and social factors can negatively impact sleep health and lead to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia. “To ensure a restful sleep, it is recommended that your room is quiet, well-lit, and comfortable,” says Dr Yadav.

  3. Limiting screen time before bed

    Blue light emitted by gadgets can interfere with your sleep and cause you to take more time to go to sleep. Social media can keep your mind active and interfere with your sleep. Experts recommend keeping your gadgets away for at least an hour before going to sleep.

  4. Limit caffeine and alcohol intake

    Coffee and alcohol contain caffeine which suppresses melatonin, which is needed for sleep. Avoid consuming caffeinated products near bedtime which can help you manage sleep debt as they can affect your quality of sleep.

  5. Follow relaxation techniques

    Practising relaxing activities before going to bed, like reading, taking a warm bath or practicing meditation, can help reduce stress and help you sleep better. Studies have shown that relaxation techniques can help you feel both physically and mentally relaxed in turn aiding good sleep.

  6. Seek professional help

    If you’re experiencing sleep problems for an extended period, it’s a good idea to seek help from a sleep specialist or health expert, as sleep debt can increase your risk of developing long-term health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, etc.

Takeaways  

  • An individual requires around 7-9 hours of sleep a day and if the person sleeps less than seven hours a day, it accumulates as sleep debt.
  • Insufficient sleep can lead to affecting the physical and mental health of an individual.
  • Expert suggest following a sleep schedule and limiting alcohol and caffeine to manage sleep debt.

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