If you have a really tough week where you aren't getting enough sleep, you may find yourself adding to your evergrowing sleep debt. A sleep debt is the amount of hours of sleep that you are NOT getting. Sleep is so essential to our wellbeing and overall function, that you take away vital hours when you aren't getting the recommended 7-9 hours a day.
It's really hard to repay sleep debts, in fact, it may be impossible as we are adding to it much more than we are contributing to it. Therefore, avoidance may be your best option. Here are some ways to avoid a sleep debt.
Learn your body's needs
Everyone is different. Even though the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a day, this may not be everyone's reality. If you function off a little less, or a little more, than you need to learn what those needs are. You can measure your body's sleep needs a few ways.
You can objectively measure what is considered good sleep for you by finding out your sleep score. If your sleep score is low, then you need more sleep. If your sleep score is high, then you are getting about the right amount of sleep. Fitbit is a good way to measure your sleep score, or even a monitoring smart ring like Oura. Tempur-pedic has measurement tools in their mattresses as well as SleepScore.
If you don't want to use technology then you can subjectively measure how much sleep you need. Keep track of the days you wake up feeling refreshed and restored. Try to remember when you went to bed and what time you woke up and how many hours of sleep you got. Your ideal time may be around that amount of hours.
Prioritize sleep in your life
Think of your sleep as the part of your schedule that is non-negotiable unless absolutely necessary. Sometimes, we view sleep as something that if we get, great, but if not, then it's okay. Sleep is not an extra accessory that we can live without. It's a necessity that requires a certain amount of hours. When you treat it that way, then you start to get the sleep that you need.
Place your sleep hours in your schedule and cut off everything that will interfere with your schedule. Getting in a few extra hours of work or sleep will not reap the benefits you think they will if you're sleep deprived.
Stick to your sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene is your schedule or routine that you stick to before bed. When you do this routine over and over you are training your brain and body to get ready for bed. This routine works for babies and kids, all the way up to adulthood. If you get in this routine, then your sleep latency (the time it takes for you to fall asleep) may decrease and you may start to extend the amount of time that you are asleep.
Spread out your sleep over everyday
So many times we try to catch up on our sleep on the weekends or on days off. However, there is no way to make up five days of sleep deprivation on two days off. The math doesn't add up and you won't be able to stay asleep that long.
This is why you need to spread your sleep out over everyday. Getting 7 hours of sleep 7 days a week is better than getting 5 hours 5 days a week and 10 hours two days a week. The difference will start to add up and the body is keeping score. Work to get a good night's sleep every night and you won't have a debt that is waiting to take you out when you've overextended your sleep deprivation.