Amanda Gregory, LCPC, EMDR

Do you get less than seven hours of sleep a night? If so, you could experience symptoms such as lack of focus, decreased productivity, fatigue, and a variety of physical symptoms. Getting enough sleep is very important.

Sleep Cleans Your Brain

Simply put, you need sleep because your brain needs to be cleaned. Jeff Stibel reported that the brain needs to cleanse itself of toxins that build up when were awake. This cleaning process occurs during sleep, as the toxins are flushed out. The brain needs to be cleaned once a day. Think of it was washing your dishes every night before you reuse them the next day. If not, toxins will build up and you still need to use your brain the next day. The brain’s cleaning process cannot be duplicated with any other methods. No medical procedures, medications, or homeopathic remedies can clean your brain, only sleep. We cannot survive without sleep. Yet, many of us try to go without it.

The National Sleep Association recommends that adults receive at least seven hours of sleep a night. When you don’t sleep for the recommended time your brain must function with left-over toxins. Imagine that you decide not to wash your dishes one night. As a result of this poor decision, you are forced to eat off dirty dishes the next day. This can be unpleasant and can make you ill. When your brain is unclean, you can experience poor concentration, difficulty making decisions, confusion, and fatigue, which often occur due to loss of sleep.

Sleep Debt Accumulates Fast

Every sleep cycle is an opportunity to clean your brain. If you miss a full cycle, you develop sleep debt. Here is how you determine your sleep debt. Take the number seven (the minimum amount of sleep that an adult should get) and subtract that number from that amount of sleep you actually get. If the number in the negative then you have sleep debt and the amount of hours is the amount of debt. Let’s say that you decide to stay up late and you get six hours of sleep for five days. You would have accumulated five hours of sleep dept in five days.

You cannot catch up on sleep debt in one night. In order to pay off sleep debt, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that you go to sleep earlier and wake up at your usual time consistently over a period of many nights in order to reset your sleep cycle. If we consider the previous example, if you might want to try going to sleep 1-2 hours earlier for a couple of days instead of sleeping in. You can also consider taking naps. If you take naps in the early to middle afternoon, then you could pay off some sleep debt. Even still, the National Sleep Foundation reported that napping is a short-term solution, as napping cannot replace the benefits of seven hours of sleep a night.

If you want to improve your mood, focus, productivity, or general health, try focusing on getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. If you need help getting sleep or staying asleep you may benefit from participating in counseling. Symmetry Counseling provides individual therapy, couples therapy, and family therapy. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to schedule an appointment.

National Sleep Foundation. (2015, February 2). National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times. Retrieved from

Stibel, J. (2017, December 31). 2018 Goals: Get more sleep. Sleep deprivation is toxic to your health. Retrieved from