Sleep Debt? Here's How to Catch Up on Lost Sleep

Catching up on lost sleep
Weekdays mean early mornings and late nights, which is why weekends are snooze fests for most of us. This can take a toll on our body. Of course you can catch up on sleep on weekends, but a healthier alternative would be to catch as much sleep as you can on a daily basis. In other words, don't let your 'sleep debt' get out of hand.
Need More ZZZs
man with a sleepcatcher
According to a 2005 survey by the National Sleep Foundation, Americans sleep 6.9 hours per night, on average.
Adults need around 7 - 9 hours of sleep per night, on an average. But how many of us manage to get even the minimum of 7 hours? Assume that you need 8 hours of sleep everyday. Subtract the hours which you actually sleep. The result is your sleep debt. It collects over time, and mind you, it charges interest as well. The interest is your health! The longer you go without sleep, the harder it will be to catch up, and the effects on your health will be worse.

In fact, a study by Harvard Medical School has stated that, it is very difficult to catch up on lost sleep. Sleeping less than 5 hours for an extended period of time can be defined as chronic sleep deprivation. Chronic sleep loss can be extremely detrimental for your health, and can take months for a full recovery.

➾ Short-term effects of sleep deprivation include problems in staying alert, impaired driving, and forgetfulness.

➾ Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to serious problems like obesity and heart diseases.
Counting sheep to fall asleep
Our body runs on a circadian rhythm, which basically regulates our sleep and awake cycles. You may try to sleep in on weekends, but too much shut-eye on Sundays will disrupt your sleep on Mondays. Since staying in bed for long is not possible for all, going to bed early is more effective when trying to catch up on some lost sleep. Your body may find it hard initially, but you'll get used to it soon. Instead of counting sheep, try imagining a beach; it will help you sleep sooner.
Best Ways to Catch Up on Lost Sleep
Maintain a sleep routine
Our body loves a routine, so decide a specific time to doze off. The body will take some time to adjust, but once it does, it will automatically get into a sleep mode at that time. Following a fixed schedule will help you get more shut-eye on a regular basis.
Take power naps
Naps are very refreshing, and help improve focus and concentration. It is important to remember that, a nap should be just a nap, not an elaborate afternoon siesta. Sleeping for more than thirty minutes will do more harm than good, so keep them short. Also, evening naps will disturb your night sleep, so nap in the afternoon.
Wake up early
How will this help, you must be thinking? The logic is pretty simple. If you get up early, you'll fall asleep earlier. Most people cannot sleep in because of work or other commitments. Hence, the other alternative is to go to bed early. It will ensure that you get sufficient rest, and wake up fresh in the morning.
Balance work and sleep
Work is important, no doubt, but you shouldn't ignore sleep for it. It's understandable to have some late work nights, but it shouldn't become a habit. Eventually, lack of sleep will affect work quality as well. So do take enough rest and strike a balance.
Tips to Sleep Better
★ Sleep Diary
Jot down and keep a track of your sleep timings. You'll know exactly how less you are sleeping. You can aim for 8 hours everyday. Mention any future commitments that will interfere in your sleep schedule, beforehand. You can sleep extra on the days before the big day to prepare your body for less sleep ahead.
★ Take it a Day at a Time
Instead of completely relying on the weekend to get shut-eye, you can try sleeping extra on the weekdays itself. Sleeping in may not be possible for most people, so try going to bed earlier. Try to balance out the difference by spreading it over a few days.
Can You Recover Your Sleep Debt?
Consider this scenario. You sleep for 6 hours everyday from Monday to Friday. This means that you have a sleep debt of two hours per day, which totals to 10 hours for these five days. To completely clear the balance, you'll have to sleep for 8 hours each on Saturday and Sunday, plus the backlog of ten hours, So that is 26 hours! Is it really feasible to sleep for 13 hours each on Saturday and Sunday? If you can, excellent. Else, your deficit will simply be carried forward.

Even a couple of hours of deficit every week will become considerably large in a month or two. Here, the best solution is moderation and prevention. You'll do your health, and thereby yourself, a big favor by sleeping a little more. Our body needs sufficient shut-eye to function properly.