Although getting enough sleep on a daily basis is the key to living our best life, most adults and teenagers are sleep deprived. Something like this is not a surprise as many people willingly choose to sacrifice sleep so that they can watch TV, scroll through social media networks, or spend more time with friends. These are all the consequences of a modern lifestyle. We simply decide to overlook the benefits that enough shut-eye provides so that we can do other things instead. We also often have work deadlines and various household responsibilities which can also prevent us from getting a good night’s rest that we deserve.
Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night so that they can be well-rested, productive, and concentrated. Unfortunately, according to studies, more than 33% of American adults fail to get enough sleep on a regular basis. We are all aware that the lack of sleep can have an adverse impact on our health and well-being, but we rarely do something to change it. Sleeping less than the recommended number of hours per day can increase the risk of various chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, stroke, and heart disease. Although most of us are aware of all these risks, we still rather choose to watch TV or play video games instead of going to bed on time. However, the question that many people want an answer to is – is it possible to make up for lost sleep? Many people tend to sleep less than recommended and hope to make up for it during the weekend when they are not working and have more free time for themselves. But, can you make up for sleep deprivation by staying in bed longer on weekends? Can something like this erase the health consequences of the lack of rest? Of course, we will feel less tired when we get more sleep on weekends, but it doesn’t mean that it will satisfy our body’s need for sleep.
Sleep Debt – What is it and How Can You Calculate it?
If you are not sure what sleep debt is, here is a simple explanation – it is the difference between the amount of sleep that you need to function properly and the amount of sleep that you actually get. For example, adults should sleep between 7 and 9 hours at night, and if you get only 4 hours of shut-eye, you will be in debt. The first step to deal with sleep debt is to learn how to calculate yours. The first thing that you need to do is to determine how much sleep you need, as people’s needs vary a lot. Once you do this, you will be able to determine the difference between the ideal duration of rest and the amount that you are getting. When it comes to sleep debt calculator, the best way is to keep a sleep diary. In this diary, you need to write down the time when you wake up and go to sleep every day, if you woke up during the night or not, how long it took you to fall asleep and more. Keeping a sleep diary is the best way to track your sleep hours. When people don’t use diaries to calculate their debt, they may think that they are getting more sleep than they actually are. 30-45 minutes here and there doesn’t seem like a big deal that can affect your well-being, but when this small amount of debt starts building up, it can add up to hours and hours of lost sleep. Keep in mind that, the more debt you have, the harder it is to pay it back and make up for the loss of rest. Over time, this debt can turn into sleep deprivation, which will bring along different mental and physical consequences, including tiredness, aching body, weight gain, diabetes, inability to concentrate, impaired memory, irritability, anxiety, and daytime sleepiness. When we are sleep–deprived, we turn to coffee and energy drinks to fuel us up and help us get through the day. However, these things can only mask our lack of sleep, they won’t have a positive impact on our well-being. The only way to fight sleep deprivation and improve your health is to focus on sleeping at least 7 hours daily. That way, you won’t have to worry about rest deprivation having an impact on your health, mood, work performance, and more.
Is it Possible to Repay Your Sleep Debt?
Many people try to make up for sleep that they lost during the week on the weekends, or when they get a chance. However, when it comes to sleep debt recovery, the question remains – is it enough? Unfortunately, sleeping longer hours on weekends doesn’t mean that it will restore all your systems and erase the consequences of sleep deprivation. If you want to know how to repay sleep debt, you should be aware that it is possible, but it depends on the situation. If you only have short-term debt, you can repay it fairly easily. For example, if you get four or five hours of sleep for a couple of days because of an exam, an important work project or event, or some other reason, you can erase it by sleeping longer on weekends. Several hours of lost sleep are nothing that you can’t make up for, but it won’t happen in one go. You won’t erase this debt in one day; you’ll probably need two or three days.
On the other hand, long-term sleep debt simply can’t be repaid. If you don’t sleep enough for weeks, or even months, nothing will help you repay your debt. Sleeping less than recommended for several weeks or more can build up to hundreds of hours of debt. You can’t expect to make up for months of sleep loss. The only thing that you can do is to try sleeping enough from now on and prevent the sleep debt from building up even further. Keep in mind that sleep has a vital impact on your health, and if you don’t sleep enough during the week, you should repay the debt as soon as possible, before it becomes long-term.
How to Get Enough Sleep?
If you want to prevent the sleep debt from building up, you should focus on getting enough shut-eye at night. It is crucial to get a proper amount of good night’s rest if you want to be healthy and function properly. Some of the things that can help you sleep more include:
Establish a Sleep Routine
One of the best ways to improve your duration of sleep is to establish a routine and stick to it. Of course, keep in mind that it is not possible to change the sleep schedule overnight. If you are used to going to sleep at 3 AM, you can’t expect to fall asleep at 10 PM. Instead of trying to follow the newly established schedule immediately, you should make gradual changes. For example, you should go to bed 15-20 minutes earlier than what you are used to. It means that, if you usually go to sleep at 3 AM, you should go to bed at 2:40 AM for a couple of days, then 2:20 AM for the next couple of days, and continue with this adjustment until you reach the desired bedtime, in this case, 10 PM. It will require some patience and commitment, but very soon you will be glad that you accomplished this. It will be easier for your body to adjust to these 15to 20–minute increments. After you adjust to the new bedtime, you should concentrate on going to sleep at roughly the same time every day, even on weekends. Also, you should wake up at the same time. If you remain consistent and stick to this routine, you will enjoy quality good night’s rest that you deserve. It is a much better idea to establish a schedule that will help you get between 7 and 9 hours of shut-eye daily than to sleep only a few hours per night and try to make up for it on weekends.
Be Careful with Daily Naps
If you feel very tired, you shouldn’t put up with it when you can take a nap. Daytime naps can be beneficial as they can help you feel less tired, improve your productivity and concentration a bit, and help you get through the day. However, although they can benefit you during the day, they can have an adverse impact on your ability to fall asleep at night. That’s why it is the best idea to take a 20 to 30–minute daytime nap, as if you sleep for a couple of hours, you may have troubles sleeping in the evening. Also, you shouldn’t nap too close to bedtime. The best period for taking a daily nap is between 2 PM and 3 PM. Additionally, although they are helpful, you shouldn’t rely on them regularly to help you with getting back on track and repaying sleep debt. They are only a short-term solution, and they can’t compare to sleeping at night.
Create a Sleep Sanctuary
If you want to increase your chances of getting enough shut-eye and avoiding sleep debt, you should turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. Reserving your bedroom for sleep, intimacy, meditation, and other relaxing activities will have a positive impact on your sleep duration and quality. You should start by adding a comfortable mattress and a pillow to your bedroom. The right choice of these sleep products can mean a huge difference between getting enough quality shut-eye and having troubles falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night. You should also choose the right colors for your bedroom, as some colors are calming and can stimulate sleep whereas others can have an opposite effect.
Another thing that you can do is to banish your smartphone, TV, laptop, tablet, and other diversions from this room. Blue light from these devices can interfere with your sleep cycles and affect the production of melatonin. If you can’t remove them altogether from your bedroom, you should at least avoid using them a couple of hours before going to sleep. Finally, your bedroom should be dark and cool enough, as the warm temperature can prevent you from getting enough quality shut-eye and cause you to wake up during the night.
Renata is an economist who has always had a passion for writing. She is a dog lover, Netflix addict and a sleepaholic. When she is not busy doing sleep research, she spends her time reading books, hiking and playing video games.