These days everyone seems to be on the go! There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish all that we need to do. I am one of those people that operate on a sleep deficit. By the time I am done doing all that needs doing for the day, I am much too wound up to sleep. There is nothing wrong; I just can’t sleep.
Everyone needs to get a certain amount of sleep, most people require between 7 and 9 hours a day. When you don’t get your required hours of sleep, you begin operating in a sleep deficit. You owe your body a sleep debt. Sometimes that sleep debt is repaid in increments, those times when you cannot keep your eyes open no matter what you do. Sometimes you fall asleep for just seconds or a fraction of a second here and there, and you don’t even know it. This happens a lot when people get behind the wheel when they are tired. So many accidents have happened on the highway when drivers have fallen asleep just for a second while behind the wheel of their cars.
When I don’t get enough sleep I get tired and experience headaches. Like me, most people that burn the candle at both ends usually have symptoms they don’t even associate with sleep loss-such as depression, malaise, dizziness, short temper, and chronic headaches. If you have been burning the midnight oil all week, and have missed several hours sleep you can recharge your batteries by sleeping in a little later over the week-end.
One of my relatives operates on a long term sleep deficit. He gets up every morning at 3 AM to go to work. He works long hours driving a truck for a living. If he were not able to find time to rest, his body and mind would eventually not be able to function. When he gets home he naps for a couple of hours. Without those two hours he would not be able to function long term. When he naps he is paying back a sleep debt.
If you have a job that requires you to get up in the wee hours of the morning or late at night, try to establish a regular sleeping pattern. You may have to go to bed when you don’t really want to, but making a habit of going to bed early enough to get the sleep you need should soon become a habit. Simple things, like avoiding alcohol, caffeine may help to alleviate a sleep deficit.
When I worked as a nurse, I left for work when most people were going to bed for the night. Every morning around 4:00 o’clock I had what I called a sinking spell. My body brain was telling me I needed to sleep. There were many nights I worked while I was asleep standing up. I was having micro-sleeps. My eyes would actually close for a fraction of a second hundreds of times a night while I was on my feet. I was actually asleep on my feet! My body was paying back a sleep debt. Then when it came near time to going home I would start to wake up and energize for the last lap, as it were. But maybe I was just on autopilot. Many times I drove home and had no recollection of getting in my car. I had no memory of driving home. A part of me may have been asleep, while another part was driving home. I always got home safely, but I just didn’t remember how I got there.
We all need to have regular sleep, even if the sleep pattern is broken up into increments. Broken sleep is better than no sleep. Going regularly without sleep may influence health in the form of high blood pressure, overeating, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and may also shorten lives with all kinds of diseases.
Source: America’s Sleep Deficit information page