Sleep Debt: Five reasons why you need to pay up

Sleep debt might seem like an inconsequential problem but a prolonged period of insufficient sleep may increase the chances of some health issues.

Sometimes, in the pursuit of personal growth, financial increase and avoiding financial debt, we end up working too hard and piling up a different kind of debt – sleep debt.

Sleep debt might seem like an inconsequential problem but a prolonged period of insufficient sleep may increase the chances of some health issues. Chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity, are just a few of the cons of owing sleep.

What then is the required amount of sleep time?

According to a sleep health journal, different age ranges require different amount of sleep time for effective living.

Categories Age Sleep time per day
Newborn 0-3 months 14-17 hours
Infant 4-11 months 12-15 hours
Toddler 1-24 months 11-14 hours
Preschooler 3-5 years 11-13 hours
Pre-Teen 6-13 years 9-11 hours
Teenager 14-17 years 8-10 hours
Young Adult 18-25 years 7-9 hours
Adult ages 26-64 years 7-9 hours
Senior ages 65+ 7-9 hours


So if you are lagging behind on your required sleep time and can’t remember the last time you were truly, fully rested, you need to make plans to clear off your sleep debt.

Here are the benefits of having a rich sleep lifestyle:

  1. You’ll learn better

A sleep-deprived person usually finds it difficult to focus optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Science has shown that sleep has a role in strengthening memory, which is essential for learning new information.

According to a research done in Harvard medical school, adults who get enough sleep do better on short term memory tests. The researchers had adults do a task once, allowed them get a good night sleep, and then try the task again. They showed significant improvement on the second task. However, participants who stayed awake 30 hours after learning the same task had a much tougher time improving their skills – even if they practiced and had a chance to catch some recovery sleep later. Something about the initial sleep deprivation impaired their ability to learn.

  1. You’ll be healthier

Sleep is very essential for your physical health. For example, sleep helps in the process of healing and repairs your heart and blood vessels. This is why one of the products of sleep deficiency is heart problems. According to a Mayo Clinic report, lack of sleep can affect your immune system: “People who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold. Their recovery times are similarly linked to sleep, or lack of it.”

  1. Sleep makes you look better

If you want to look your best, sleep your best. In a recent study, participants were kept awake for 31 hours to prove that sleep deprivation really does take its toll on the appearance. Lack of sleep leads to unflattering physical effects like swollen eyelids, inflamed eyes, dark circles under their eyes, wrinkles, acne and droopy corners of the mouth. “The results show that sleep deprivation affects features relating to the eyes, mouth, and skin, and that these features function as cues of sleep loss to other people. Because these facial regions are important in the communication between humans, facial cues of sleep deprivation and fatigue may carry social consequences for the sleep deprived individual in everyday life.”

  1. Sleep can make you slim

Skipping sleep sets you up for making unhealthy decisions. It dulls activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, the locus of decision-making and impulse control. Based on a sleep deprivation study, Dr. Hensrud of the Mayo Clinic highlighted how repeatedly getting insufficient sleep can lead you to crave high-calorie foods over healthier choices. “Women who slept less than six hours a night or more than nine hours were more likely to gain 11 pounds (5 kilograms) compared to women who slept seven hours a night.”

  1. Sleep boosts your work output

Whether you are an athlete or working in the corporate field, sleeping is essential. World star athletes like Roger Federer and LeBron James get between 11 to 12 hours of sleep daily to boost their training and performances. In 2007, editor in chief of the Huffington post passed out from sheer exhaustion on her desk which led to her breaking up her cheekbone and requiring six stiches under her right eye. This accident woke her up and helped her redefine her work schedule. Currently, she has a compulsory daily 8 hour sleep regime which she chronicles in her book. Like this study says,” If you aren’t sleeping, you’re putting your career at risk.”