If you make it through your workweek barely getting a wink of sleep, then you’re far from alone. Studies show that millions of Americans do the same thing, relying on energy drinks and adrenalin to stave off the symptoms of sleep deprivation. When you do this, you accumulate what doctors and scientists call a “sleep debt”, which is basically an IOU you write to yourself saying, “Let me keep going now, and I’ll pay you back with a really long slumber session later on.” The “payback” usually involves sleeping for 10-12 hours or even more on our days off.
Many of us go through years or even decades living like this. While we may be taxing our bodies throughout the week, we think it’s alright because our books balance in the end, mentally and physically speaking, but a number of recent studies casts doubt on this belief. Researchers are finding that a chronic sleep debt may take far longer to repay than once thought. In fact, a growing body of evidence shows that there is simply no substitute for getting enough rest on a daily basis.
Like a Half-Charged Battery
This situation is similar to that noticed by users of smart phones and other electronic devices. For example, many of these products can run for eight hours when they’re fully charged. Bring them down to 50% of capacity, however, and you’re likely to get only 2 to 3 hours of life out of them. While this may run counter to what your math teachers told you in school, it’s nonetheless true.
It seems that the human body works in much the same way. Researchers in one study allowed subjects only 5.6 hours of sleep per night for a three-week period, then permitted them to doze for 10 or more hours at a time. Upon awakening after their extended rest they were able to function as well as if they had been sleeping 7 to 8 hours for that three-week period, but within an hour of waking up, their coordination, memory, and other functions rapidly declined, just like an under-charged battery.
When carried on for extended periods, the subjects were only able to retain their physical and mental abilities by getting a minimum of 7 hours of sleep nightly. It seems that we’re like our gadgets – there’s no substitute for a fully charged battery if we want to function at our best.
A Regular Schedule is the Key
For centuries, almost all humans lived their lives in accordance with the rhythms of the day. They rose at dawn, worked until dusk, and then began a daily ritual of winding down that ended in sleep within a few hours after sundown.
Then Edison invented the light bulb, and night became as bright as day across most of the globe. We began staying up later and later, getting to bed at a different time each night or, in many cases, staying up throughout the evening and finally nodding off while the sun was high in the sky. This change in our lifestyles is the cause of much of our society’s insomnia crisis.
The good news is that there are ways to get better sleep that most of us can use to our benefit. One of the most important ones is to return to the ways of our ancestors and follow a daily schedule, with set times for waking and for going to bed. Of course, night shift workers can’t turn in soon after the sun falls, but they can still enjoy the benefits of a fixed routine by getting up and retiring to bed at the same times each day.
Of all the ways to get better sleep, the one that is imperative is to invest in quality sleeping products. Parklane Mattresses invites you to browse our online selection or visit us in person at one of our retail locations in Oregon or Washington State. Our mission is to help turn your dreams of restful, relaxing slumber into reality, at a price that won’t give you nightmares.