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Image / Editorial

That’s right, ‘catching up’ on sleep will help you feel less exhausted

by Jennifer McShane
15th Jun 2020

Is anyone else feeling weighted down by tiredness? During Covid-19, this isn’t surprising. If you’re still feeling the after-effects of a sleep-deprived few days (or weeks), there are things you can do to get your sleeping patterns back on track

A multitude of research has shown that adults, on average, only get around five to six hours per night, when we should be getting eight to nine, so we’re all essentially walking around in a sleep-deprived state, building up what’s known as a “sleep debt” — the difference between sleep you need versus how much sleep you’re actually getting.

So, if you’re aiming for seven hours per night and only get six, you’ve built up five hours of “debt” by Friday, hence the feeling of weariness. However, while it’s important to always try to keep a regular sleep rhythm, there are ways to make up for the hours you didn’t get according to various researchers.

And just like the new study that says women having their dogs sleep alongside them (no other humans allowed) will ensure they get a most restful night of slumber, here are five other ways to get rested and catch up on those extra Zzzs:

1. Keep track of the amount you sleep

To catch up on sleep, you need to know how much you’ve lost. Your sleep debt is just as likely to develop over an extended period of minor sleep deprivation as it is from one or two all-nighters. If you can, take note of how much you sleep per night for two weeks, as that should paint a fairly accurate portrait of your sleep debt, and provide a basis for you to adjust your routine.

2. Don’t sleep in

We’re all tempted to sleep the day away come Saturday, but if you want to feel fully rested, sleeping in until midday isn’t the way to go, simply because the quality of the sleep you get late in the morning is not as good as the quality of sleep you get if you hit the hay early. So, go to bed even an hour earlier and try getting up at a regular hour come the weekend and you’ll feel the difference.

3. Take a “Recovery Nap”

If you have a spare 90 minutes during the day and want to feel revived, if you sleep for an hour and a half or close to 100 minutes, you’ll get a full sleep cycle.

4. Think about your sleep strategy carefully

Think about your strategy for catching up on sleep. It’s common that people deprive themselves of sleep during the week, and then try to make it up on the weekends. But is that enough? If you sleep 6 hours per night Sunday-Thursday, then “catch up” on the weekends by sleeping 11 hours per night, you’re still coming up 4 hours short every week — that’s 200+ hours of sleep debt every year. Aim for a more regular pattern across all seven days and you won’t build up as much debt.

5. Try to balance out your sleep cycle

In a perfect world, we would simply allocate an extra hour or two every day for sleep, but that’s not always possible. However, you might be able to find time sporadically. If your schedule requires that you sleep six hours Monday, Wednesday, Friday, try to sleep eight hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It might not seem like much, but those few extra hours will supplement your elongated weekend sleep (which you should avoid), and greatly reduce your debt.

While it’s good to catch up on sleep in the short-term, long-term, it isn’t a healthy idea. Experts don’t know yet what the long-term consequences are of building up the sleep debt and then trying to reduce it, so, use the above tips when you must, but do try to keep to a regular sleeping pattern.

Main photograph: Unsplash

Read more: Simple ways to turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary

Read more: ‘I wake up exhausted’: how to get a good night’s sleep, according to an Irish sleep expert

Read more: 8 handy things you can do to help sleep during the summer months

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