Sleep debt destroys; let us prevent or keep the debt down – Part I.

Home » Sleep debt destroys; let us prevent or keep the debt down – Part I.

For many people, including my plain self, getting the recommended amount of sleep over the night can be a very common challenge. We are not totally to be blamed for this. After all, some of the common activities that cause people to miss sleep are either essential to our survival or are the activities that usually slip off our self-control such as prolonged work hours, school work especially homework, transportation challenges from distance and traffic jams, socializing physically with one another or virtually via social media, and relaxing with watching television. Not getting adequate sleep causes a “sleep debt” to build over time. Sleep debt, also called a sleep deficit, is the difference between the amount of sleep someone needs and the amount they actually get. For example, if a person needs eight hours of sleep per night but the person only gets about six hours, the person has incurred a sleep debt of 2 hours that day. If the person goes on to get 6 hours of sleep each day for 5 days, he accumulates a sleep debt of 10 hours.

For us, sleep advocates, sleep debt is an obsessive concern because it is very risky to build up a sleep debt. Whether we like it or not sleep is the only currency that can be used to settle this debt.  The unsettled debt sets out for sleep drive perceived as sleepiness, has serious consequences and interferes with our physical and mental health, socioeconomic activities like work, school and driving, etc. As sleep debt is ordinarily cumulative, being in a prolonged state of sleep debt on a regular basis increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. It is also linked to reduced immune function, metabolic dysregulation and weight gain, and a greater risk of falls and accidents from inattentiveness. Without our full knowledge, it negatively affects our mood making us easily angry, aggressive and sometimes unexplainably unhappy. We have a poor concentration that will easily be associated with displeasingly impaired memories of both recent and old happenings. Sometimes, we have also experienced faulty thinking functions leading to indecisions with procrastination, negative perceptions and frequent regrettable wrong choices without knowing that these are also consequences of owing sleep debt from not having enough sleep. However, it appears that the drawbacks of sleep deprivation that are easily noticed by people are ongoing fatigue, sleepiness and inattentiveness. Little wonder that there are accounts of such drawbacks in different forms, some being flimsy and funny while others can be serious and disastrous. A friend shared the gist of his observation when a hymn book fell off the hands of a worshiper in the worship place followed by the worshiper’s startle and a quick look around to see how many other worshipers probably observed the book fall off.  Recently, I had a patient who fell from the toilet seat and broke his arm bone as he fell deep asleep while stooling. He volunteered that he had been having sleepless nights due to late-night work on a pressing project with an imminent deadline. We have also observed where a brain deprived of sleep would most predictably succumb more easily during enduring tasks like driving or keeping awake for night guard duties. Research showed that driver fatigue with sleepiness during driving is a major contributor to road accidents: “…Among the frequent explanations for sleepiness during driving were sleep problems and some behavioural factors, most importantly sleep deprivation.”

Amidst the ugly effects of sleep debt, it can be avoided through healthy sleep practices and lifestyle accommodations which also can help one recover from sleep debt and regain the benefits of quality rest. Also to specifically keep sleep debt down, get the length of sleep you need in order to feel rested when you wake up. Intentionally, allow extra time to sleep if you were not able to get enough sleep the previous night(s). It is encouraging to know that a person does not necessarily need to pay back hour for hour the lost sleep since the body sometimes sleeps more soundly to pay down the debt.

In my next article, I will dwell further on the strategies for avoiding sleep debt, paying up the debt and catching up on sleep.

Let us remember that when you sleep, where you sleep and how you sleep affect your mental health, physical well-being and living a healthy life. We all need quality sleep to be set for productivity in our endeavours.

Do you need further information on the above subject? Are you looking for ways to maintain quality sleep for general well-being and healthy living? Remember, a doctor is an appropriate person to offer relevant advice for the maintenance of quality sleep and solution to sleep difficulties. Do you want to contact the Orthopaedic Sleep Consultant, Dr Charles Uzodimma, kindly send your request to OR Whatsapp 08129982143.

Vitafoam Nigeria Plc is the first foam manufacturing company in Nigeria to partner with a sleep expert to educate Nigerians on quality sleep for healthy living. The proudly Nigerian company is truly passionate about sleep and general well-being, and continues to consistently provide Nigerians with quality products that offer great comfort.

To learn more about Vitafoam, please visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *