Have you ever got enough sleep at
night and walked around the next day feeling groggy and tired wondering
"Why do I feel so tired?" The answer may be that you have accumulated
First of all, if a person gets enough sleep at night this
does not guarantee that he or she will be alert and energetic the next
day. In order to be alert during the day each person needs a set amount
of nightly hours of sleep. The brain carefully registers every hour of
sleep that a person attains, and every hour obtained that is less than
the person’s nightly requirement is added up as sleep debt over time.
Sleep debt is the summation of all the sleep hours you have lost from
your nightly sleep requirement and need to regain. The more tired you
feel and the easier it is for you to fall asleep during the day the
more likely it is that you have accumulated a large amount of sleep
debt that needs to be "repaid". This debt can only be repaid by extra
hours of sleep.
For example, let us say that a man, Carlos, has a nightly
sleep requirement of eight hours. One week he only sleeps seven hours
each night. This means that by the end of this week he accumulates
seven hours of sleep debt. Now, let us say the following week Carlos
returns to his regular sleep schedule and sleeps for eight hours each
night for the entire week. Carlos feels tired all week. Even though
Carlos was fulfilling his nightly sleep requirement for the second
week, he still had not made up the seven hours of sleep he had lost the
previous week. Fulfilling the amount of sleep Carlos needed did not
ensure his optimal alertness during the daytime of the second week,
because he had accumulated sleep debt from the previous week. Now,
Carlos can only make up the sleep he has lost by getting extra hours of
Not getting enough sleep impairs mood, makes us feel less
energetic and, in some cases, makes it hard for us to accomplish
complicated tasks. By "paying back" our sleep debt we
can improve the way we function on a daily basis and even improve our
life. The more we get the amount of sleep we need at night the more
energetic and alert we will feel during the day.
With this in mind, take steps to reduce your sleep debt. This
means getting extra sleep to make up the sleep you have lost and
maintaining a bedtime schedule that will help you fulfill your personal
sleep requirement every night.
Finally, make sleeping an important part of your life. Losing
sleep can be a serious threat to your safety. Drivers who have not
gotten the right amount of sleep can cause fatal accidents on the road.
In this case, sleep debt is a serious issue and can be deadly. At
Stanford University, Dr. William C. Dement, a specialist on sleep and
sleep disorders encourages all people to get the right amount of sleep
so that they can be at optimal alertness during the day. His mantra for
all is: "drowsiness is a red alert!" This means if you feel tired while
you are driving (or doing something else that can be potentially
dangerous if you are not well rested) then you need to pull over
immediately and take a rest or a nap.
In this modern world, where sleep seems to get in the way of
all the important things in life (like work and school), be smart, and
make your health and safety your first priority. Everything else in
life should come second to getting a good night’s sleep.