While people can quickly recover from one or two nights of insomnia or lack of sleep, chronic sleep deprivation can seriously affect daytime alertness. Night after night of sleep loss has a cumulative effect and creates a sleep debt. When you build up a sleep debt, daytime memory, cognitive ability and reaction times are compromised.
A sleep debt can occur when a person has a sleep disorder, like insomnia or sleep apnea, as well as when a person voluntarily doesn't get enough sleep (i.e. long hours on the road, poor sleeping conditions, night shifts).
This sleep debt calculator can calculate your sleep debt and illustrate how many hours of sleep it will take to get you back on track. Repaying your sleep debt may not be easy, but it is possible. In time, you can reverse the effects of long-term sleep deprivation.