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Can you catch up on lost sleep?

May 24, 2020

We all need to sleep. We don’t really know why, but we do.

Sleep gives us lots of restorative benefits – we look, feel, behave and perform better.

Not getting enough sleep can have significant consequences on both physical and mental health and wellbeing. There is lots of research around how sleep deprivation is linked to heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, depression and Alzheimer’s.

Sleep debt or sleep deficit is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep.

So can you catch up on lost sleep?

Unfortunately sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t make up for chronic sleep debt caused by workweek sleep loss. Just a few days of lost sleep can have cumulative adverse effects including increased daytime sleepiness, worsened daytime performance, an increase in molecules that are a sign of inflammation in the body and impaired blood sugar regulation.

Recovery sleep over a weekend may help you feel less tired but it can disrupt your normal ‘go to bed – get up’ routine and thus impacts on your overall sleep quality. Instead trying taking a 20 minute power nap on weekend afternoons, ideally between 2 and 3pm.

How to avoid sleep debt

Firstly, try not to accumulate it! Make time for sleep and assess how much you are sleeping and how you feel the next day. Keep a sleep diary if you feel your sleep is suffering.

Remember we all need different amounts of sleep so don’t feel you need to have 8 hours per night. What’s important is having a regular sleep pattern.  For some more advice on looking after your sleep click here.