It is said that an adult needs eight hours of quality sleep every day. But what happens when you miss a few hours? Like the time you stayed up late into the night working on a tight deadline. Or studying for an exam. Or just surfing the TV on weekends. Most of us do not feel any different the next day. But each time we miss an hour of the required sleep, another hour is added to our sleep debt.

So what exactly is sleep debt? It is the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you actually get. In the short term it leads to foggy brain, forgetfulness and a general lack of energy. Long term effects can include obesity, diabetes and even heart disease.

But the good news is unlike credit card debt, it is easy to get rid of your sleep debt. All you have to do is sleep a little longer every day and sleep well. Sleeping for an extra hour every day is a good way to start. A short term debt can be usually paid off this way in a few weeks.

However, when it comes to a long term debt quality of the sleep becomes extremely important. Start off like you would with a short term debt – hour or two of extra sleep every day. Work around your schedule so that you go to bed at the same time every night. This will help your body form a pattern. Avoid all stimulants and intoxicants before bedtime. Have an early and light dinner, block out the outside noise and find the right mattress and pillows that suit you. Once your body builds up a pattern, avoid deviating from it and slowly but surely your sleep debt would disappear.

So start tonight. Climb into that comfortable bed, pull up those covers and starting paying your debts.