Sleep Debt and Relief
As humans, we spend about one third of our lives sleeping, yet sleep is a unique and biological function which has many common misconceptions. For optimal health and well-being, having a sleep plan cannot be understated. Unfortunately, getting a good night’s rest in our modern day has become increasingly rare. Lack of sleep and chronic fatigue are more common than unusual. Due to our technology-integrated, fast-paced lives, the rate of sleep deprivation is on the rise, and according to more than a few peer-reviewed studies, shows no sign of slowing. Despite all the noise, lack of sleep doesn’t have to be the norm. We can free ourselves from the red eyes and over-caffeinated lives we groan through each morning by making a few simple lifestyle changes and developing new habits. These will help you wake up refreshed and rested, ready to battle the day ahead.Understanding sleep debt and its impact on your health is key to sleeping more soundly. There’s a need for a specific amount of sleep we have every night, although this is unique to each person. Sleep debt is the accumulated short changing of your individual sleep requirement, calculated by time. Generally, everyone needs about eight hours ± two hours. When we clock only four hours of Z’s, we unknowingly create a sleep debt by not getting the right amount of sleep to meet our needs each night. Sleep deprivation or sleep debt, much like monetary debt, becomes a problem for us when we continue to go each night without adequate sleep. Just like buying a new Camaro with a 28% interest rate when you are nineteen, that debt will come back to haunt you. You will pay the piper sooner or later, be it with irritability, exhaustion, illness, or reduced capacity to function day to day. Sleep debt can be problematic in that we have become accustomed to pushing that proverbial snooze button via coffee, energy drinks, or any other number of tricks to seemingly make up for lost hours under the covers. It’s become almost too easy as we succumb to the marketing and norms of exhaustion. What we may fail to notice is that sleep debt accumulates gradually over a long period. For example, getting 30 minutes less sleep than we need each day will progressively accumulate to 24 hours of sleep debt in just 48 days! The math is easy, but its effects are not. Sleep deprivation can contribute to other issues like weight gain, anxiety, depression, anger, or stress. (Not that those issues are created by lack of sleep, but its not helping you to manage those demons as effectively as possible.)The good news is that we can pay off some of that debt and get you back onto the path of quality sleep. Create a sleep journal, and for one week, start logging when you lay down to sleep and when you wake up. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time, even on weekends. Once we establish a pattern of your sleep habits, we can identify extra time to earn back. Like dieting, there is no magic pill and you are good to go. It takes time and a little patience, but you will be richly rewarded for your efforts. The easiest way is to start going to bed 30 minutes sooner each night and stick to it, as waking is a little harder for some of us than others. Be strong! I know it’s hard to shut off Netflix when another episode is ticking away to start in 20 seconds, but create a hard cutoff time and give yourself a chance to succeed. That 30 minutes each night will slowly chip away at your accumulated sleep debt and begin to reap rewards. You will notice waking is a little less difficult, a little less of a stupor. You’ll feel a little sharper with a comeback or producing the numbers your boss wants on the spot. Here is your sleep task list:
- Go to bed at the same bedtime: Also, waking up at the same time each and every morning is important. If you can wake up at a consistent time each morning, your bedtime will adapt automatically.
- Create a sleep haven: Ensure to reserve your bedroom as a quiet and relaxing place meant for sleep and sex alone. This will help you in maintaining your bedroom as the oasis of sorts that triggers your brain when to know it’s time to sleep.
- Eat for sleep: Try giving yourself at least two hours after eating before going to bed. This will give your digestive system a chance to take care of those chilis, calm down gradually, and prepare for bedtime. Avoid caffeine after noon to give your body time to process the effects before bedtime.
- Go to bed when you are tired: This one is easy, but we push it off. Go to bed when you feel sleepy, and do not try staying up by fighting it.
- Avoid taking sleeping pills: Sleeping pills can make you drowsy, but do not create the deep REM sleep needed for your body's regenerative functions. Try taking deep slow breaths, or better yet, I’m a big fan of guided meditation. It allows you to lower your heart rate and blood pressure and clears your mind.
- Keep it dark: At night, even small amounts of light can obstruct you from sleeping. Ensure you take a good look at your bedroom at night for the slightest sources of light. Light can creep from your alarm clock, a hallway nightlight, or a full moon peeking through blinds. Using light-blocking curtains and eliminating ambient light sources will help you maintain a dark room throughout the night.
- Keep it cool: You sleep better when the room is slightly cooler than your comfortable temps when awake. According to sleep.org, the ideal temperature range is between 60-67 degrees. If you are like me and in the blazing heat of Arizona, that might be a little hard on the utility bill, so try a moisture wicking fabric for your sheets. Sleeping in thin fabrics and/or naked will allow your body to shed unwanted heat. Using a can also help to regulate body temperatures by preventing heat collection at the bottom of tucked sheets.
- Grab a notepad: Stop obsessing about a problem or an obligation when it is time to sleep. Write it down on a notepad and it will be there for you in the morning to pick right up. After you write it down, there is nothing you can do more to address the issue until morning. Rest easy knowing you have done all that you can or should do; let your brain wind down.
- Use a Bed Block: The final and most important step (for this blog at least) is to optimize your sleep is by using a . The foam wedge is placed at the foot of the bed to provide a tent-like, blanket-lifter effect for your feet to roam freely. The roomy foot freedom achieved helps to relax muscles and tendons in the feet, ankles, legs, and lower back, while also providing more consistent temperatures from head to toe. Those with an ailment like broken/sprained bones, foot, ankle, or toe pain, post-surgical recovery, diabetic neuropathy, gout, and nerve issues will see the largest impact to their quality of sleep.The Bed Block isn’t just for folks with an ailment, but everyone looking to optimize their sleep. More room and better temperatures allow you to settle into more natural sleep postures, ergo better sleep. Watch our demonstration video on or check out the successful .
These tips and remedies coupled with your Bed Block are the life-changing habits that you need to make the leap from “This is just how I sleep” to sleep optimization. Just a few tweaks to your daily routine are needed to increase your overall health, demeanor, and well-being while you wake up refreshed to tackle each new day. Keep in mind that sleep deprivation is often caused by a negative cumulative sleep debt; let’s squash that debt like the Dave Ramsey of sleeping. The Bed Block can be purchased at our website- and also on . Check out what Harvard has to say on the topic and start repaying your sleep debt at .You can also contact me at to find out more about the Bed Block. Thank you for your patronage!