Sleep Debt: Why You Should Care



Sleep may seem like a luxury in the busy world we live in but it needs to be a priority.

Although, each person requires different amounts of sleep to maintain their optimal performance, nearly half of all the adults in the United States are getting less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night.[1]

This leads to what scientists are calling sleep debt. The good news is sleep debt can be “paid off.” The problem is if you are consistently sleeping less than you should, your sleep debt will continue to accumulate.  

So what does sleep debt mean?

There is still much to learn about sleep BUT here is what we know. While you sleep your brain is storing memories and repairing, detoxing, and healing neural processes. When you don’t get enough sleep, you reduce the time your body has to restore and repair itself. Sleep loss can lead to:  

  1. Impaired attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning and problem solving
  2. Increased forgetfulness
  3. Increased risk for depression and/or weight gain
  4. Increased risk for serious health issues
    1. Heart disease
    2. Stroke
    3. Diabetes
    4. Alzheimer’s
  5. Increased risk for accidents
    1. Car accidents
    2. Work injuries
    3. Home accidents

What can I do to improve my sleep habits?

Most healthcare professionals recommend starting with improving your sleep hygiene. This may include recommendations to reduce your caffeine consumption, improve your sleep environment, and start a bedtime routine.   If your routine generally includes these recommendations, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Approximately 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders each year.[2]

Do not try to self-diagnose yourself, call your primary care physician to schedule an appointment to talk about what you are experiencing. Many disorders can be controlled or completely corrected through different therapies, self-care methods or medications.  

Visit the National Sleep Foundation Website for additional sleep information and tips on how to get a better nights rest.