The amount of time we sleep is like putting money in a bank account. Whenever we don’t get enough, it’s withdrawn and has to be repaid. Luckily, sleep debt can be reversed.
However when dealing with a chronic long-term debt, slow and steady is the best way to do it. If we try to all of a sudden catch up on all our debt at once, we can throw off our circadian rhythm even more. Start simply with adjusting your bedtime. Rather than sleeping in later, which can make it harder to fall asleep the next night, go to bed earlier and wake up at your normal time. You can adjust by as little as 15 minutes per night to gradually shift your body's clock. On the weekends and vacations, avoid sleeping in more than a couple of extra hours.
Naps might seem like a good quick fix but be careful with them, and don’t nap for too long. For the best rejuvenation, go for either a 20min power nap or a longer 60 to 90min snooze. Once you have paid off your sleep debt and have figured out how much sleep you need to be fully rested - it’s time to commit to healthier sleep habits for life.
Here are some tips to consider. Exercise regularly, but not within 3 hours of bedtime. Avoid caffeine after noon (and go light on alcohol). Avoid artificial light around bedtime and in the bedroom (this means all screens). Creating a sleep sanctuary is one of the best things we can do for our sleep health. We need to reserve our bedrooms for sleep, intimacy, and other restful activities, like pleasure reading and meditation. Keep the room on the cooler side and keep screens out of that space. It’s important that our bodies experience light during the day, so if working indoors in dark environments, make sure to take the time to get outside during daylight hours for a break each day. It’s also beneficial to sleep quality to not eat carb-heavy meals within 4 hours of bedtime.
Finally, practicing stress-reducing activities like meditation and yoga and MOST OF ALL, massage, can greatly increase sleep health.
It might take time to adjust our lifestyles to allow for a restful night’s sleep every night, but trust us, the payoff of attacking each day with the sleep we need is worth it.
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