Most people know sleep is important and some even realize it plays a key part in regulating our mood and affects productivity, concentration, weight and more, according to health studies. Yet, a recent study by Sleepopolis found that it might be one of the first things we cut out of our busy schedules, creating “sleep debt.”
According to The National Sleep Foundation, sleep debt is described as “the difference between the amount of sleep that you need and the amount that you’re actually getting.”
The average Ohioan is missing out on a significant 34.9 hours of sleep each month, the nationwide study of 2,500 adults found, making it the sixth highest in the United States. The national average is 30.6 hours.
The research revealed most are aware of their overdue snoozing bill, and that about 15 percent of sleep-deprived Americans attempt to repay by binge sleeping on the weekends.
But can you really repay long-term sleep debt?
“Our survey shows that we’re becoming a sleep-deprived nation,” Logan Block from Sleepopolis said in a prepared statement.
“Unfortunately, there’s no way to ‘repay’ long-term sleep debt — experts simply recommend changing your habits to make sure you get sufficient rest to live the healthiest life possible. Stick to a regular sleep and wake schedule, avoid caffeine and alcohol (especially before bed), exercise daily and switch off electronics at least an hour before you go to sleep, keeping all technology out of the bedroom.”
Local doctor Nicole Danner serves as the medical director for the Fisher-Titus Sleep Center, The Bellevue Hospital and Mercy Health Willard Hospital and overses her own private practice.
Danner said sleep debt is “a huge issue” and is a “huge contributor” to many other medical issues.
6 hours or less is dangerous
“Sleep deprivation can lead to depression, memory loss with pseudo-dementia (a mental impairment that looks like dementia) and can worsen most other medical issues,” she said. “I have seen patients have hallucinations, seizure-like activity, amnesia-type symptoms from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is a major trigger for headache and migraine sufferers.”
Danner said the sobering fact is studies also show that six hours of sleep or less per night leads to a higher risk of dementia, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
While some have medical issues, such as sleep apnea, causing them to miss their Zs, most have sleep deprivation from “inadequate hours of sleep or inadequate sleep hygiene.”
“People tend to ‘rob sleep for life,’ meaning that they truncate hours of sleep to get all the daily tasks accomplished such as work, school and household chores,” Danner said.
“Many people just have poor sleep habits and will stay up too late doing an activity (TV, electronics, etc.) and not allow enough time to sleep. There should be no electronics in the bedroom — period!”
And that’s especially so for children, she said.
“One of the worse sleep debt patients are those who work second or third shift and sleep non-regular hours and then try to switch the schedule on the days they have off,” she added. “Our sleep clocks do not work like that. They need regular sleep hours and regular sleep times.”
How many Zs are needed?
Danner said the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep. However, children need more sleep. She offered the following standards.
Teenagers, ages 14 to 17, need about eight to 10 hours. Previously this requirement was thought to be 8.5 to 9.5, according to the doctor.
Both young adults ages 18 to 25 and adults ages 26 to 64 years need seven to nine hours of slumber every night. Older adults (those older than 65) should average seven to eight hours of shut eye.
For most ,though, the issue isn’t necessarily not knowing how much sleep is needed, but knowing how to buy out the time for it.
“The best way to get more sleep is schedule it in,” Danner said.
“Keep set sleep times, go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning with little variation,” she said. “Allow for eight hours of sleep for adults (or as appropriate for the age group). Keep electronics out of the bedroom so notifications do not sound through the night. No TV in the bedroom, or at least not on while sleeping. Do not truncate sleep to do other things. Keep the same schedule seven days a week, even when doing shift work. Get all sleep in one consolidated time and not broken up.”
She said making these changes could save your health, which could save your life.