In this study, we hypothesized that dynamics of sleep time obtained over consecutive days of extended sleep in a laboratory reflect an individual's optimal sleep duration (OSD) and that the difference between OSD and habitual sleep duration (HSD) at home represents potential sleep debt (PSD). We found that OSD varies among individuals and PSD showed stronger correlation with subjective/objective sleepiness than actual sleep time, interacting with individual's vulnerability of sleep loss. Furthermore, only 1 h of PSD takes four days to recover to their optimal level. Recovery from PSD was also associated with the improvement in glycometabolism, thyrotropic activity and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis. Additionally, the increase (rebound) in total sleep time from HSD at the first extended sleep would be a simple indicator of PSD. These findings confirmed self-evaluating the degree of sleep debt at home as a useful clinical marker. To establish appropriate sleep habits, it is necessary to evaluate OSD, vulnerability to sleep loss, and sleep homeostasis characteristics on an individual basis.
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