It is very possible to pay off your sleep debt. For instance, if you have to wake up earlier than usual, you can recover your missed sleep by sleeping in the next day. Sleep is a restorative process that allows your heart, blood vessels, and entire body to heal from the day’s activities.
Sleep also allows your brain to catalog information and develop new pathways that assist you in navigating the next day. With that in mind, paying off your sleep debt isn’t quite the same or as beneficial as getting the sleep you need in the first place.
Making up for lost sleep takes a lot of time. In fact, studies show that to fully recover from an hour of lost sleep will take you at least four days. Most people who lose sleep tend to do so chronically, which creates a sleep deficit that increases the chances of sleep deprivation symptoms making it difficult to catch up on sleep.
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What is Sleep Debt
Sleep debt is an informal term used to refer to sleep deprivation. An adult is supposed to get between 7-9 hours of sleep for optimal health. If you only get less than 6 hours of sleep every night, you would have to incorporate more hours of sleep into your sleep schedule to stay healthy.
How Can You Pay Off Your Sleep Debt?
1. By Extending Your Sleep Time
To extend your sleep time, you would have to go to bed earlier than you usually do or delay your wake time. The best approach would be to add time incrementally in short extensions until you are well-rested. However, over-extending the amount of time you spend in bed might make you liable to developing insomnia, so you should sleep at least 15 minutes more each night until you reach your sleep goal.
Remember to keep a regular sleep schedule and spend a few minutes in the sun each day to enhance these benefits.
2. By Taking a Nap
Although short naps that last for 15-30 minutes can be refreshing, you may need to nap for a few hours to make up for significant sleep deprivation. However, taking a nap too late in the day might make it hard for you to initiate sleep at night, so it would be best to take a nap earlier in the day, particularly in the hours before noon.
3. By Sleeping in on Weekends
When you wake up early on weekdays, you gradually accumulate a sleep deficit that you get to pay off when the weekend rolls around. Sleeping in on weekends basically gives you a chance to hit reset on your sleep debt each week. Although this technique is better than perpetuating your sleep debt, becoming used to it may put you at risk of suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation during the week.
4. By Using Caffeine in Limited Ways
Caffeine products block the signal for adenosine, making you feel more awake. Still, this effect is short-lived, which means you would have to periodically take more caffeine to benefit. Regardless, caffeine cannot make up for profound sleep deprivation, meaning its role becomes more and more limited as your sleep debt accumulates.
What Are the Risks of Trying to Make Up For Lost Sleep
Similarly to chronic sleep deprivation, the inconsistent sleep habits associated with paying off your sleep debt increase your risk of developing various health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- High Stress and Anxiety levels
- Delayed immune response
- Memory problems or loss
- Heart Disease
- Bipolar disorder
Make the Most of Your Sleep Time
In a culture that has high regard for dedication and hard work, deep sleep is often neglected. Yet, depriving yourself of quality sleep affects your health and limits your cognitive and overall performance. Luckily, simple changes to your routine will allow you to pay off your sleep debt and get back to healthy sleep habits.