Can You Catch Up on Sleep?

It’s very easy to miss your bedtime when you are busy with finishing project from work, enjoying a glass of wine on a night out with friends or watching a late night movie. Whether you have lost just an hour or two of sleep, those lost hours quickly pile up over the course of a week. This is what prompts people to sleep in for an hour or two during the weekends. Can you really catch up on sleep by doing that?

Can You Catch Up on Sleep?

You could probably make up for a night’s loss of sleep, but it becomes harder for anything longer than that. When you lose sleep, you will have sleep debt which is the gap between the right amount of sleep needed and the amount you really get. Sleep debt comes with a truck-load of disturbing characteristics, such as emotional, physical and mental fatigue, and inability to efficiently handle daily tasks, especially the high cognitive tasks executed in the frontal lobe of the brain. Sleep debt is an accumulative process where less than 6 hours of sleep each night declines body function and performance to a level that is equal to 24 hours' lack of sleep; a week’s sleep of four hours per night is the same as not sleeping for 2-3 days. Daily performance will continue to decline as the sleep debt rises.

So can you catch up on sleep? As each time we lose some sleep, sleep debt increases, so when you lose sleep for an extended period, sleep debt rapidly grows and you can only do little to remedy the situation. The more you strain your body by starving it of sleep, the more difficult it becomes to make up for sleep loss. As time goes by, the sleep debt continues to pile up, and you may develop serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

How to Catch Up on Sleep As Much As Possible

1. Keep Record of Your Sleeping Amount

To successfully make up for sleep loss, you need to have an idea of the amount you have lost. Try to keep track of the amount of sleep you get per night for two weeks, which will help in painting a clear picture of the sleep debt and help you figure out ways to adjust your bad sleeping routine.

2. Avoid Napping for Too Long

Can you catch up on sleep if you take long naps? If your nap session is over an hour, then it is best if you do not nap at all unless you are a shift-worker who has no choice. If you plan to sleep at night, it is advisable to give up daytime napping as it could make it harder to fall asleep at night. A nap gives you little or no REM sleep which can regenerate and refresh the body, and without REM sleep, your sleep debt will not be paid.

3. Sleep Earlier During the Weekends

It is common to think that you can make up for your sleep loss by sleeping in during the weekends. However, when you sleep in for more than an hour, you can easily upset the circadian rhythm, thus making it hard to get up on Monday morning. Therefore, you'd better go to bed earlier on weekends, and in this way you will not have to bear the risk of upsetting the circadian rhythm. For those with heavy sleep debts, it could take months to make up for the lost sleep.

4. Spread the Time for Catching Up

It is highly recommended that you make up for your sleep debt by adding an hour or two to each night of sleep. For example, if you lost 5 hours of sleep, you can make up for that by adding an hour extra to your sleep each night until you pay up the debt. This might seem like a big hassle, but you will see the positive impact it will have on your body as time goes on.

5. Plan a Routine

A particular sleep pattern can help make up for lost sleep efficiently. When you go to bed and wake up at the same time, you will regulate your circadian rhythm which can save precious hours of sleep and help you catch up more on sleep.

6. Improve Sleep Quality

Can you catch up on sleep? The great thing is that the body will always be cooperative to catch up on sleep. When we try to make up for lost sleep, the body will spend more time on deep sleep stages. To make the best use of your sleep time, avoid looking at bright lights before hitting the sheets and stay away from caffeine after 3 pm. You can also listen to relaxing music or reading a book before bedtime.

Tip: Prepare your body ahead of time if you know that you will be having a late night. You can sleep in a bit more during the days leading up to it.

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