How To Recover From A Sleep Debt
Here's why skipping out on your sleep adds up
Think back to the last time you struggled to fall or stay asleep – how did you feel the next morning? Chances are you probably felt groggy, irritable and less than refreshed.
Although it’s reasonably common to occasionally not catch as many z’s as you would like (hello, late nights at the office and Netflix binges), an ongoing sleep debt can put you at risk for some pretty serious health problems as well as contributing to the symptoms of depression and leaving you feeling flat.
It’s worth paying attention to.And according to science, there’s no ‘hack’ to allow us to sleep less and thrive at optimum health. Lack of sleep will catch up with you, mentally and physically.
So, the question is, can you actually catch up on sleep?
The answer is yes – conditionally.
The amount of sleep that we require depends on our age, but experts recommend that adults need between seven and nine hours each night to perform at their mental and physical best.
This means that if you’re up all night running through your to-do list and you only get three hours of sleep, you’ll have a four-hour sleep debt.
The only way to recover a sleep debt, is to grab an extra hour every night for the following four or five nights. Yes – it can take nearly a whole week to repent for the damage of missing just a few hours.
However, experts warn that we shouldn’t make a habit of trying to make up for lost time as although it’s technically possible to catch up on lost sleep, experiencing a too-frequent sleep debt can force us into a pattern of always falling behind.
Instead, science says the best way to minimise the instances of sleep debt is to make a solid bedtime routine and stick to it each day, priming you to automatically start to get sleepy when you start your bedtime routine and making you more likely to sleep restfully through the night.
In other words, prevention trumps cure.
If you’re in the midst of a sleep debt, here are a few things you can do it pay it back.
Rest when you're tired
Trying to push through will only be counter-productive. Commence your bedtime routine 1-2 hours earlier than usual and as soon as you start to feel yourself getting drowsy, go to bed. That true crime documentary can wait until you’re well rested enough to properly enjoy it.
Try a natural sleep supplement
Rather than taking a sleeping tablet that can leave you with a ‘hangover’ the next morning, try a natural remedy to help lull you into quality sleep. SLEEP WELLE Calming Tea is a sleepy blend of Skullcap, Valerian Root and Hops that when combined, helps create a soothing sensation that is conductive to calming the mind and supporting a healthy and peaceful night’s sleep.
Rise when you're ready
If possible, try to rise without an alarm clock unless it absolutely can’t be avoided. Letting your body rise naturally is the best bet. Your body is wise and sleeping longer will allow it to make up for lost time.
Getting 10 hours sleep on one night, or a really good weekend of sleep, isn’t going to make up for the sleep debt in one go, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re still feeling tired. It will take at least four to five days to fully make up for one instance of a sleep debt and research says it can take your body up to two weeks to make up for one week of late nights.
Make it a priority
Once you’re back to your well-rested best, practice good sleep-hygiene and prioritise sleep as part of your self-care routine to minimise the chances of falling behind. Experts call sleep ‘the third pillar of health’ and advise treating it with as great a priority as you do diet and exercise, so ensuring you’re getting enough sleep is an investment in your wellbeing.