September 1, 2023

Do you hit a bit of a slump in the middle of the day and consider taking a nap? Maybe you’re the kind of person who was taught to “sleep when I’m dead” and you just go go go all day long? Napping, once relegated to preschoolers and the elderly, has gained increasing attention among adults seeking a boost in energy and productivity. With our modern, fast-paced lives, taking a short nap during the day might seem like a tempting way to recharge. Today we’ll talk about a concept called “sleep debt”, and some possible remedies including napping. 

It might help to first understand the purpose of sleep, since most people spend an average of ⅓ of their lives doing it. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, sleep is important to a number of brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other. In fact, your brain and body stay remarkably active while you sleep. Recent findings suggest that sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake. Though sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body – from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance – its biological purpose remains a mystery. 

  For many people, getting enough sleep can be a challenge. More than one-third of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep every night. Losing sleep is even more common in people who work in the medical field or other jobs that require shift work. Being in a prolonged state of sleep debt or sleep deprivation on a regular basis increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Sleep deprivation is also linked to reduced immune function, metabolic dysregulation and weight gain, and a greater risk of falls and accidents. Prolonged sleep deprivation also affects memory and cognitive functions.

So how do we fix our sleep debt problems? Well, it starts by proactively trying to protect our sleep time so we can get enough for our bodies (which of course is different for each person and you should reach out to your healthcare provider to learn more). Here are some tips from Sleep Foundation on maintaining good sleep hygiene. 

  • Keep a set sleep schedule: Maintaining a set sleep schedule allows you to prioritize sleep and make sure you are getting sufficient rest. If you need to change your sleep schedule, do it slowly by adjusting it in increments of 15 to 30 minutes.

  • Develop a nightly routine: Having a nightly routine allows your body to relax and prepare for quality sleep. Set an alarm for 30 minutes to an hour before bed to remind you to dim the lights, turn off electronics, and find a relaxing activity.

  • Consider daytime habits: If you are chronically sleep deprived, rethink any daytime activities that may be contributing to sleep issues. Make sure you are getting enough sunlight and exercise during the day, and not drinking caffeine too close to bedtime. Limiting screen time prior to sleeping may also help reduce sleep issues.

  • Improve the bedroom environment: Optimize your bedroom environment for sleep. Keep the temperature comfortable for sleeping, block out any lights or noises that might keep you awake, and consider replacing your mattress, pillow, or sheets if they are old or uncomfortable.

If you’re already in a sleep deprived state, taking naps or sleeping in on the weekends are probably the first solutions that came to mind. Unfortunately, it is unclear if sleeping in actually compensates for sleep debt or if it simply helps the body to return to its normal sleep patterns. One study found that sleeping in on weekends does not reverse the metabolic dysregulation and potential weight gain associated with regular sleep loss. 

While both napping and sleeping in on weekends may help ease symptoms like fatigue or daytime sleepiness, they are often not enough to adequately recover from sleep debt. The accumulating effects of sleep loss is a debt that takes longer to repay. Research has shown that it can take up to four days to recover from one hour of lost sleep and up to nine days to completely eliminate sleep debt. A full recovery from sleep debt returns our body to its baseline, reducing the negative effects associated with sleep loss. 

Hopefully this information helps show you the importance of keeping up on your sleep. If something is hindering you, please reach out so we can do a functional health consultation and try to help. As always, check with your doctor before making any big changes to your health. 


More than one-third of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep every night.

Peak Performance Care

in Sonora CA

13949 Mono Way

PO Box 4143

Sonora, CA 95370

(209) 532 1288

Fax: (209) 230 9529

Monday/Wednesday: 8am-5:30pm

Tuesday/Thursday: 6am-5pm

Friday: 6am-2pm