Can you repay your “sleep debt”?


sleep (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Yes, it is possible to repay a sleep debt, according Dr Lawrence J. Epstein, medical director of Sleep HealthCenters, albeit it will take some time before the chronically deprived return to normalcy in sleep patterns.

Researchers have found that each individual has a sleep pattern that is unique to them and believe that genes determine these patterns. A 2003 sleep study found that increased tiredness resulted in less tiredness felt, which may be a problem, because we can literally work ourselves to death. The Japanese term “karoshi” comes to mean death from overwork.

Technically speaking, we are well able to sleep less than 8 hours, which has been touted to be the ideal figure for everyone, but the real deal is not about an absolute number, but about how we are uniquely wired. We can be conditioned to register a lower number of hours over time, but how far are we able to push our limits in order to increase our productivity before we breakdown from the lack of rest?

In 1999, an experiment conducted by the University of Chicago placed rats on a rotating disc which was suspended over a pool of water, and the rats’ brainwaves were recorded with a computer program that recognised the onset of sleep and just before these rats entered into sleep mode, the program would kickstart the disc rotation to awaken the rats, bumping against the walls and threatened to knock them into the water. After two weeks, the rats died from exhaustion and just before their death, they showed symptoms of hypermetabolism, which is a condition where the body’s resting metabolic rate speeds up so much that it burns excessive calories even while completely still. Their bodies have been conditioned to hypermetabolism which eventually killed them.

Rest is an important part and parcel of life, or as the faithful posit, a gift given by our Almighty Lord. Upsetting the necessary routine which we tout as “evil” can be detrimental and bring about serious long-term consequences. Rethink again before you go on that long haul of deprivation. Take the weekend off to rid yourself of those dark rings around your eyes!


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