Sleep Debt: Causes, Consequences and How to Deal With It


Have you ever felt like no matter how much you sleep you’re almost always tired and exhausted? That your sleep schedule is always out of whack and you can’t seem to get it right no matter how long you sleep on the weekends or try to stay up during the day so you can sleep on time at night? Well, you’re racking up what’s called sleep debt, and you’re not alone in your struggles. 

Sleep debt is hard to navigate and sometimes turns into a vicious cycle of chronic sleep debt, mainly because you need more sleep than you lost to make up for the deficit. 

Keep reading to learn more about the causes and consequences of sleep debt. 

Causes of Sleep Debt 

First things first – sleep debt and insomnia are different. In insomnia’s case, a person is unable to sleep even on the weekends and has trouble sleeping even when they have the time, but sleep debt happens when someone doesn’t sleep out of their own choice. 

Sleep Inertia

Sleep debt can pile up quickly when work obligations don’t let you sleep, when you have general anxiety disorders or any breathing issues or chronic pain that doesn’t let you have enough sleep, or simply when you routinely choose to stay up and binge watch a tv show instead of going to bed. 

Sometimes, even sleeping more on the weekends isn’t enough

What Happens When You Don’t Sleep 

Sleep is when we retain information and repair our bodies and our minds for the next day, and if you have sleep debt it probably means you’re not getting enough of any of this, which has disastrous consequences. 

Attention span runs low and your mood is all over the place, not to mention how the exhaustion and constant lethargy set in. Sleep debt can increase your chances to get diabetes, high blood pressure, and many other conditions later in life. 

Another great drawback of sleeplessness is that your body doesn’t get the chance to recover physically from all the things you did during the day. This makes it harder to work out or maintain an active lifestyle, which in turn causes a whole different kind of issues related to weight gain. 

How to Deal With Sleep Debt 

The only way to deal with sleep debt is to break the patterns that brought you to this point and to make sure you don’t keep repeating them. 

For many people, big lifestyle changes are in order. Make a habit of not using any electronics two hours before bed, sleep more during the weekends but don’t wake up later than two hours from when you would usually wake up. 

Try to go to bed earlier and build a bedtime routine that will set you off for a good night’s rest. 

Make sure that your room is at the right temperature and invest in a quality mattress that will provide comfort and support to your body. You can check out the best firm mattress according to Health for more information about different firmness levels.

Another way to deal with sleep debt is to take a few days off and catch up with it. Sleep when you feel like it and allow your body time to rest and heal, and eventually, you’ll slip into your natural rhythms that you can keep up when you go back to work or to your daily obligations.