What to know about sleep deprivation

Jay FitzOur Town Health

Sleep debt, also known as sleep deficit, is the difference between how much sleep you need and how much you actually get. When you sleep fewer hours than your body needs, you have a sleep debt. This “debt” adds up over time and can negatively impact your health.

Sleep deprivation occurs when the body gets less sleep than it needs. Even though seven hours of sleep per night is recommended for most adults, about 30 percent of U.S. adults get fewer than six hours, according to the Sleep Foundation.

Sleep debt occurs when an individual experiences the cumulative effects of repeated sleep deprivation for several days or weeks. Another term for sleep debt is “insufficient sleep syndrome” because the insufficient level of sleep lasts for a longer period of time.

Jonathan McFarland, DO

Jonathan McFarland, DO, is a pulmonary medicine specialist who is board-certified in sleep medicine. He is director of the Sleep Center at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. Dr. McFarland says the effects of sleep deficiencies can vary from person to person.

Not getting enough sleep over a period of time is linked to health problems, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The mental benefits of sleep are also important. Sleep problems can make daily life feel more stressful and less productive and are also tied to depression. Research has shown that people who have trouble getting enough sleep can also have difficulties with tasks that require memory and learning.

How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Need?

Healthline has provided the following age guidelines for healthy sleep from birth to adulthood:

  • Birth to 3 months: 14-17 hours
  • 4 to 11 months: 12-16 hours
  •  1 to 2 years: 11-14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years – 10-13 hours
  • 6 to 12 years: 9-12 hours
  • 13 to 18 years: 8-10 hours
  • 18 to 64 years: 7-9 hours
  • 65 years and older: 7-8 hours

“Adults fall somewhere on a spectrum of how much sleep they need per night,” says Dr. McFarland. “While most adults need the average 7-8 hours per night, there are variations. Some adults only need 5-6 hours to feel rested, and some need 9-10 hours, and they may worry there is something wrong with them.”

The article discusses sleep cycles and deep sleep (REM). Other topics include:

  • How to Avoid a Sleep Debt
  • Health Habits That Affect Sleep
  • Can You “Catch Up” or Recover from Sleep Debt?
  • How Long Does Sleep Debt Last?
  • When to Seek Help for Sleep Disorders
  • What is a Sleep Study?
For Additional Help

Ready to say “good-night” to sleep deprivation and sleep debt? You can self-refer to a Covenant Health Sleep Center. Visit our web page for details and locations. For more about better sleep, check out these helpful articles:

Jonathan McFarland, DO, medical director of the Fort Sanders Regional Sleep Center, is the source for this story.

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