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Pay off your sleep debt with these 5 simple steps

In a world that is only getting busier and busier by the minute, many people are not getting the minimum recommended amount of sleep resulting in a national sleep deprivation crisis.

Is there really such thing as sleep debt? Yes, there is. And the only person you owe anything to is yourself. Roughly one-third of adults don’t get enough sleep, and 80% of people experience sleep problems one or more times a week. The cost of this epidemic isn’t just under-eye bags, multiple cups of coffee, and a longing for naps. Shockingly, the result of lost sleep comes to 1.23 million missed days of work per year, and $400 billion economic loss annually.

How does sleep debt get so out of control?

If you miss out on 2 hours of sleep during the weekdays to complete a project, binge a show on Netflix, or finish that book you can’t put down, come the weekend you’ll have missed out on 10 hours of sleep- over a full night’s rest. When Saturday and Sunday roll around, you may sleep in to try to make up for that lost sleep, but this won’t ‘catch you up’ in the way you’re hoping.

Much like losing weight, decluttering the house, or saving money, paying off your sleep debt takes time and consistency. However, it can be done with these simple steps:

1. Keep your room temperature cool-

According to some sleep specialists, a cool room is the optimal environment for sleep. Your body naturally lowers its temperature to prepare for sleep, so lowering your environmental temperature can help you enter a dreamy slumber faster. Typically, ideal sleeping temperature falls between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Set a sleep alarm-

Much like you set a morning alarm, consider also setting a sleep alarm. It’s best to set this alert as a notification to get ready for bed, so don’t set it for your bedtime. Give yourself enough time to brush your teeth, wash your face, and go through your nightly ritual. Plan it so that by the time you’re done, you can get into bed at the time you desire.

3. Limit screen time-

Turn off your television and put your phone away an hour before you want to fall asleep. The blue light emitted from screens interferes with sleep, and nighttime exposure has even been shown to contribute to weight gain. So, don’t sleep with the television on and keep your phone turned face-down so that any notifications or incoming messages don’t disrupt your sleep.

4. Break up with your snooze button

You may believe you’re tricking your brain into thinking you get to sleep an extra few minutes, but what you’re actually doing is disrupting your REM sleep. This can initiate your fight or flight response, which increases your heartbeat and blood pressure. Additionally, the small amount of sleep you get from hitting snooze is not restorative sleep, and isn’t worth fighting for. It’s likely that once you end your snooze habit, your body will learn to wake naturally and the urge to sneak in a few extra minutes of sleep will also fade away.

5. Resist the urge to nap-

While everyone enjoys the occasional siesta, enjoying too long of a nap can make it difficult for you to fall asleep at night. Timing is important when it comes to your nap, so here’s the lowdown. Napping in the early afternoon allows you enough time to build up adequate sleep desire to prepare for your long-term night sleep. Keeping your nap short, around 15-20 minutes, will provide you with the refreshment you’re looking for without the feeling of a sleep hangover.

So, how much sleep do you really need? Here are some suggestions for you to consider, of course always check with your doctor with any sleep-related concerns;

14-17 hours for newborns aged 0-3 months

12-15 hours for infants aged 4-11 months

11-14 hours for toddlers aged 1-2 years

10-13 hours for preschoolers aged 3-5 years

9-11 hours for school-age children between 6-13 years

8-10 hours for teenagers aged 14-17

7-9 hours for young adults aged 18-25

7-9 hours for adults aged 26-64

7-8 hours for older adults aged 65+

You will spend up to one-third of your life sleeping, so paying attention to the quality and consistency of your sleep will directly impact the rest of your life. By making simple changes to your sleep routine today, you can create lifelong habits that you’ll benefit from in the long run.

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