Sleep debt is a term you might have heard while researching sleep apnoea, but you might not thoroughly understand it.
Firstly, there are actually two separate types: partial sleep debt and total sleep debt. The latter refers to the overwhelming fatigue which people feel after staying awake for far too long – you probably remember it well from your university days. However, those suffering from untreated sleep apnoea need to be more concerned with partial sleep debt – which occurs when a person sleeps too little for days on end.
As an example, let’s say that you sleep only six hours each day for five days in a row. Based on the average amount of sleep a person needs to remain in top condition – around eight hours per night – you’ll have built up a sleep debt of ten hours over that five day period. This must then be caught up on before you start feeling your best. If it isn’t, you’ll feel fatigued and bleary-eyed throughout the day – even if you happen to have gotten eight hours the night before.
Sleep experts predict that more and more people are developing sleep debts during the week due to demanding jobs and the prevalence of 24-hour entertainment. However, anybody suffering from sleep apnoea may find themselves building their own debt without even having fallen foul of these modern menaces.
This is because of the fact that sleep apnoea can wake you up during the night – even if you get your head down at the right time the lack of a full sleep cycle can make sure you develop a substantial debt. The effects are less pronounced than when you simply stay up all night, often developing without you being aware of it. Aside from general fatigue, effects can include weight-gain, poor vision, and impaired short-term memory.
Worst of all, those with untreated sleep apnoea will find it hard to catch up on their sleep debt by going to bed earlier, since the problem will still occur. In order to counteract the problem completely, they’ll need to participate in a sleep study and order a CPAP machine to help with breathing during the night. If you think you might suffer from sleep apnoea, don’t let your sleep debt keep developing – contact a doctor today.