While most of us know that we should get seven to nine hours of sleep daily, sometimes we can’t help but fall short of that goal. Spending an extra hour or two awake might not seem like a big deal, but regularly depriving yourself of sleep can be harmful in the long run. This results in sleep debt, which involves memory and concentration issues. In the long run, it might even bring on health issues like heart diseases and diabetes.
We’ve advocated for sleeping in on the weekends as a way for you to recover from your sleep deprivation, but is it enough to pay off your sleep debt?
What affects the amount of sleep you get?
Getting enough sleep is easier said than done, especially since a lot of external factors affect the amount and quality of shut-eye we get in a night. Screen time before bed, for one, affects our body clock since blue light increases our alertness at times where we should be getting sleep.
The amount of stress we’re in also affects the quality of sleep we get. Since our body’s response to stressful and anxiety-inducing situations is to remain awake, people who suffer from stress or anxiety find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
Chemicals such as caffeine and nicotine, which are both stimulants, can get in the way of you getting restorative sleep—and might even lead to insomnia.
Is sleeping in on weekends enough?
Studies have shown that sleeping in for an hour or two over the weekend certainly has its benefits. If you’re looking to make up for missing 10 hours of sleep, catching up on the weekend can help you cancel out some of the negative effects of sleep deprivation over the course of a week.
Unfortunately, this tactic may not be as effective for people who are chronically sleep deprived. While you may feel refreshed for a time, sleeping in won’t make up for sleep deprivation—and it won’t reverse the negative effects that frequent lack of sleep has had on your mental and physical health.
Additionally, sleeping in on the weekends may also backfire on you. Staying up late on the weekdays and sleeping in on the weekends can throw off your body’s internal clock, meaning you might have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep the following night.
So, how can you make up for lost sleep?
Aside from sleeping in on the weekends, the experts at the National Sleep Foundation suggest making up for lost sleep gradually throughout the week. Throughout the week, try going to bed half an hour earlier than usual and waking up half an hour later than you usually do before you go to work.
If you’re chronically sleep deprived, consider taking it easy for a few weeks. In the article “Can You Catch Up on Lost Sleep” published in science magazine Scientific American, it is recommended to sleep whenever you feel tired and let your body wake you naturally. You’ll be able to catch up on your sleep debt, and eventually your body will adjust to an amount of sleep that is right for you.
While your body adjusts, use that as an opportunity to develop better sleeping habits. Setting a consistent schedule for sleeping and waking up, reorganizing your bedroom and cutting back on screen time before you go to bed can go a long way.
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