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What in the world is... sleep debt?


We like to think of sleep as recharging our batteries. Whether you’ve had a long day at work, a huge to-do list, a new baby or a few too many late-night study sessions—it’s easy to drift into a habit of staying awake rather than drifting to sleep. But is it bad for your health to miss so much sleep, and can you go into what’s called “sleep debt”?

Though “sleep debt” is an unofficial term for a lack of cumulative sleep, not getting proper Z’s can have a huge impact on your health. Sleep deprivation is becoming more common as our culture tends to adjust their schedules to get as much out of the day as possible. Sometimes, however, it’s caused by serious medical conditions such as sleep apnea.

Prolonged lack of sleep can impair your immune system, lead to severe mood swings, hallucinations, and increase your risks of developing depression and other mental illnesses. It has also been linked to weight gain, reduced physical strength and a direct cause of life-threatening complications such as car accidents.

According to Dr. Roy Schutzengel, M.D. at Adventist Health Physician Services in Roseville, California, getting a full night of sleep is crucial, adding that, “As a pediatrician I council parents and kids (particularly adolescents) about the value of getting regular sleep to improve school performance and overall behavior.”

For most adults, we need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Hitting the hay a little bit earlier is always a great place to start, but if you have trouble going or staying asleep then consider talking to your doctor or sleep specialist about alternative methods for catching the best rest. Do you best to stay out of debt!

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