How to overcome sleep debt

Often, sleep is referred to as being overrated or a luxury. Many people feel as though they don’t have time for sleep. This thought process adds to an ever-growing “sleep debt,” which is the sleep bodies needs minus the actual amount of sleep attained in a night.

The need for sleep varies among individuals. Most healthy adults need around eight hours of sleep each night. Some people need as little as six hours to function well. Others need as much as 10 hours of sleep. One way to tell if you are not getting enough sleep is if you become fatigued or tired during monotonous situations, irritable with family and coworkers or have difficulty concentrating.

Common sleep stealers
• Medications may cause difficulty falling asleep as a side effect.
• Jet lag
• Shift work
• Medical problems, such as pain, restless leg syndrome, untreated sleep disordered breathing and COPD.
• Environmental issues, including too hot or cold, too loud or a bed partner snoring
• Psychological stress, whether caused by personal life or job

Tips for sleeping
• Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the late afternoon or evening.
• Exercise regularly.
• Don’t nap.
• Establish a relaxing routine for bedtime.
• Make your bedroom conducive to sleep by regulating temperature and limiting light.
• Limit use of electronic devices to at least 30 minutes before bed. Light admitted from cell phones, laptops and tablets can interfere with the body’s ability to sleep.
• If you can’t fall asleep after 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something quiet or relaxing, such as reading or listening to soothing music. Do not go back to bed until sleepy.

Tara Vander Laan is a registered respiratory therapist and lead technologist at CHI St. Alexius Health Sleep Center.