Medical Moment: Can you pay off sleep debt?

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 7:16 PM EST
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(WNDU) - According to the American Sleep Association, up to 70-million adults in the U.S. have a sleep disorder.

In the past, scientists thought that you could make up for lost sleep.

But new research is showing you may not be able to pay off your sleep debt.

You probably know sleep is important for overall health but more than one in three Americans doesn’t get enough sleep on a regular basis.

If you think you can make up for missed sleep by sleeping in on the weekend, think again! A new review published in the journal trends in neurosciences found sleep deprivation in mice led to cell death in the brain after just a few days. It also caused inflammation in the prefrontal cortex and increased levels of proteins linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Sleep is the VIP service everybody needs,” said Leandre Schoeman, certified sleep consultant. “Regardless of age, sleep is so important to our system. It affects basically every area of our life.”

If you’re struggling to squeeze in enough sleep, try to set a schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool and quiet. Don’t take naps after 3 p.m. or naps longer than 20 minutes. Avoid caffeine and alcohol throughout the day. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something calming such as reading.

And if you’re really struggling, talk to your doctor about medication options!

And, for the mice that had been sleep deprived, they still suffered damage even after a full year of regular sleep suggesting you can’t undo the effects.

More evidence on just how important a good night’s rest really is.