If sleep were a cc company, would you be in debt?
Medical evidence suggests that for optimum health and function, the average adult should get 7 o 9 hours of sleep daily. But more than 60% of women regularly fall short of that goal. Although each hour of lost slumber goes into the health debit column, we don't get any monthly reminders that we've fallen in arrears. In fact, the greater the sleep debt, the less capable we are of recognizing it: Once sleep deprivation — with its fuzzy-headedness, irritability, and fatigue — has us in its sway, we can hardly recall what it's like to be fully rested. And as the sleep debt mounts, the health consequences increase, putting us at growing risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and memory loss.
In some cases, sleep debt results from insomnia or other underlying conditions that may require medical attention. But most sleep debt is due to burning the candle at both ends — consistently failing to get to bed on time and stay there until we've slept enough. Flight attendants, night duty and shift workers are some examples that need to be disciplined to maintain optimum health.
Fortunately, sleep doesn't charge interest on the unpaid balance or even demand a one-for-one repayment. It may take a while, but even a chronic, longstanding sleep debt can be repaid...