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The average adult requires 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to lead a healthy, happy lifestyle, but it’s estimated that 70% of Americans don’t get enough of it each night. Rest should be treated as necessary. Otherwise, you’ll develop sleep debt and a wide range of health problems. Longevity Live Paid Partner. 

Sleep Debt: The Biggest Consequent To Poor Sleep

Let’s get one thing straight: 5 hours of sleep isn’t good for you. Even if you think you can survive on less than 8 hours of sleep, you definitely won’t thrive. Eventually, your lack of sleep will catch up to you, and you’ll form a “sleep debt,” which is the total amount of sleep you’ve missed.

While it’s impossible to calculate the amount of sleep you’ve missed in your lifetime, you can use apps and or fitness bracelets to calculate your sleep debt over a period. This will give you an average of how much sleep you need to catch up on over the next two to three weeks.

What Happens If my Sleep Debt Is Too High?

While waking up groggy is normal and won’t lead to health consequences, a sleep hangover gained from a high sleep debt will affect your overall health, happiness, and chance of death.

Shorting yourself on shut-eye for even one night could cause the following short-term issues:

  • Lack of awareness

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  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Moodiness and stress
  • Impaired memory
  • Low quality of life
  • Higher car accident risk

Fortunately, these problems can be solved if you get enough sleep the following night. However, long-term sleep deprivation can cause devastating, sometimes irreversible, health issues.

By racking up high sleep debt, you put yourself at risk for the following long-term issues:

  • Hypertension
  • Weight gain
  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Diabetes
  • Low motor skills
  • Poor problem-solving skills
  • Immune system deficiencies 
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Decreased fertility
  • Memory loss

As you can see, sleep deprivation isn’t anything to mess with, especially as you start to age. Losing a bit of sleep here or there is expected and won’t leave lasting consequences, but you need to develop good sleeping habits in order to prolong your health, youth, and prowess.

How Can I Sleep Better At Night?

Since the lasting consequences of poor sleep aren’t immediate, you may not address the problem right away. But, if you’re experiencing mild sleep deprivation, you can tackle it yourself.

Treat Sleep Like Medicine

Everyone has demands during the day, but sleep shouldn’t be at the bottom of your priority list. It doesn’t matter if you have a test coming up or a project due at work; you need to get enough rest to be productive in the morning. Whatever you deem as “urgent” can wait until tomorrow.

If you’re staying up late because you procrastinated, then you need to manage your time better. However, if you’re burning the midnight oil because your employer is wearing you too thin, you need to try and find another job. Otherwise, you could face the consequences of burnout.

Develop A Bedtime Routine

Fixing your sleep schedule is difficult because your new bedtime will fall adjacent to your current circadian rhythm. There are two strategies to fix this problem: stay up a whole day until your designated bedtime, or reduce your bedtime slowly until you can fall asleep naturally.

We recommend doing the slow method to not add to your sleep debt, and we also advocate for putting your phone or tablet away an hour before going to bed. Black-out curtains, a sleep mask, and comfortable bedding can also help your body get into “sleep mode” in minutes.


Nadine Westwood

Nadine Westwood is a registered dietitian, travel blogger & fitness lover. In her spare time, she helps save stray animals. Nadine really does enjoy sharing her fitness journey with others who might need help with weight loss or finding a stress reliever.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.