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Fitness, Sports, Money-Nuff Said

Suffering from Sleep Debt? ---
Causes and Cures
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January 15, 2017

By Susan  Callahan, Contributing Columnist

"Sleep debt" is a new name for an old problem. What we
now call "sleep debt" used to be called  a "sleep deficit",
and they both mean going with adequate sleep over an
extended period of time and building up a cumulative
deficit of good quality sleep. But is it true that we all need
the same amount of sleep? Can some of us thrive on less
sleep than others? Is the man who sleeps 4 hours a night
but who is thriving at his career really "sleep deprived"?

Which brings us to the key first question ---how much
sleep do you really need?  

Surprisingly, this simple question is not that easy to
answer.  Scientists are not free to experiment on humans
as they can freely do on other animals.

We can only "guess" at what the ideal amount of sleep is
because most of us never experience ideal sleep
conditions.  The night sky doesn't show us stars anymore
because of the high levels of pollution. And that's only the
air pollution. Almost as dangerous is noise pollution --
- the
constant droning on of cars, planes, trains and televisions
that interfere with our ability to get a good night's sleep.

Another type of pollution is stress. Stress from money
woes, relationship upset and just living also interferes with
"ideal" sleep conditions.

So, if
scientists could take a human being and isolate them
in a pollution-free, stress-free  environment,
they might be
able to tell how many hours of sleep we would ideally
 But life is not an ideal sleep laboratory.  No
laboratory which examines humans can separate us from
the stresses we bring inti the lab with us.  So, again, we
can only "guess" how much sleep we need on average.
But, based on years of observation, most experts believe
that we humans need between 6 and 8 hours of sound
sleep each night to function at our best.

Most of Us Have a Growing Sleep Debt

If we can use that 6 hour to 8 hour benchmark as a
standard, then most of us are falling short of that standard
by a mile.

About 40% of us  sleep fewer than 7 hours,  according to
Gallup poll conducted in 2013.   The Sleep Foundation  
recommends that adults get between 7 and 9 hours of
sleep per night.

The 1 to 2 hour sleep deficit amounts to 30 to 60 hours
you are shorting yourself per month.  

Effects of a Sleep Debt

As you might imagine, a persistent sleep debt takes a toll
on your body.

A 2014 study led by scientists from Université Claude
Bernard Lyon 1 Unité Mixte de Recherche in Lyon, France
found that accumulating a sleep deficit for two consecutive
nights dampens your cortisol levels. This is important
because cortisol is responsible for regulating your natural
body clock.  

The sleep deficit also raises your blood pressure and raises
your blood sugar levels.

Other studies have confirmed the strong connection
between running a prolonged sleep deficit and diabetes
risk. A famous 1999 University of Chicago study found that
students who sleep only 4 hours for 6 consecutive days
saw  developed insulin resistance, also precursor to
diabetes. In the experiment, the scientists followed 11
healthy young male volunteers for a total 16 consecutive

The volunteers slept 8 hours for the first three nights. For
the next 6 consecutive nights, the men slept only 4 hours.
Then, for the last 7 days, they slept 12 hours per night.

Measuring the blood sugar metabolism when the men were
at the peak of their sleep deprivation, the scientists
discovered that losing sleep made the men take 40%
longer to metabolize their blood sugar, a level seen in Type
2 diabetics.

What can you so to help erase a sleep debt?

Does Sleeping Longer Help to Catch Up on Lost Sleep?

You can't really catch up on lost sleep. That's the sober
conclusion of a Harvard Medical School study.

If you sleep for 6 hours a night for two weeks, and then
try to "catch up" by sleeping an extra 10 hours, your
ability to focus and your reaction times will still be worse
than someone who pulls an all-nighter.

The 2010 study was led by Dr. Daniel Cohen of the
Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. The
study found that, after catching up by sleeping 10 hours,
your wakefulness will have been almost fully restored for
the first few hours. But across the span of your normal
circadian day and night, your abilities to focus deteriorate.

The takeaway here is that you should be all means try to
catch up by sleeping longer, if you have a sleep debt. But
don't expect to fully recover the abilities you lose by
missing sleep in the first place.

Go to Sleep at the Same Time Each Night

Studies have shown that people who tend to get good
night's sleep tend to follow a regular pattern of when they
go to sleep. They go to sleep at the same time each night.

Going to bed at the same time each night helps to train
your body to accept the entry into sleep more easily.

Go to Sleep before Midnight

We humans are animals with a fairly consistent preference
for when we sleep. We are our sleepiest between midnight
and 6 AM and between 2 PM and 4PM , according to a
Harvard Medical School report.

Miss that midnight deadline and you may find it harder to
fall asleep.

To help yourself ease into sleep, you should also of course
practice what scientists now are called "good sleep

Turn off electronics an hour or so before you plan to

Listen to music that you find relaxing rather than

Stop exercising within 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.

Avoid caffeine and stimulants at dinner.


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It's harder to catch up on lost sleep than you
think, scientists say.
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