Ah, the weekend! No reason to get up early, nowhere specific to be (most weekends, anyway) and the glorious opportunity to sleep in.
As adults, doesn’t it feel good to relax on the weekends and catch up on sleep? But what does that really mean, “catch up on sleep?”
Most of us would probably say that because we don’t get as much sleep as we would like during the week (when we have to set our alarms early for school, work or kids), we like to “catch up on sleep” on the weekends to make up for it. But is making up for missed sleep really possible? It’s a question doctors and medical researchers have been studying for years—the idea of sleep debt and whether you can really “catch up” on sleep you’ve missed out on.
What is Sleep Debt?
“If sleep were a credit card company, many of us would be in deep trouble,” say the researchers at Harvard Medical.
According to many doctors, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, few of us get that much. We’re all busy with children, work and a to-do list that’s a mile long. So, we set our alarm clocks earlier and going to bed later in order to get everything done—meaning at least 60 percent of us only get about five to six hours of sleep.
Let’s do the math. Say the average adult misses out on two hours of sleep per weeknight. Multiply those two hours times five weeknights. That’s a “sleep debt” of 10 hours for the week.
Does that mean if we just sleep an extra 10 hours on the weekend that we can make up for that lost sleep? Not exactly.
Consequences of Having Sleep Debt
Chronic sleep debt can be really unhealthy. Some of the serious symptoms of sleep deprivation include obesity, high blood pressure and slow reaction times, which can be dangerous when driving, cooking and doing other everyday tasks.
Other less serious but still significant health effects to consider include lack of focus and concentration, inability to recall important facts and an uneven temperament or poor mood.
Repaying Short-Term Sleep Debt
For the above example of a 10-hour sleep debt over one week, the experts at Harvard Medical and the National Sleep Foundation recommend sleeping in an extra three hours or so on Saturday and Sunday. Then, try to sprinkle in an extra hour each night over the following week.
Obviously, that will only work in the short-term. If you are continually missing out on 10 hours of sleep every week, you’ll never be able to repay your sleep debt.
Repaying Long-Term Sleep Debt
“If you've shorted yourself on sleep for decades, you won't be required to put in a Rip Van Winkle–like effort to repay the hours of missed slumber,” say the experts at Harvard Medical. “Nonetheless, it could take a few weeks to recoup your losses.”
If you have long-term sleep debt, it’s best to declare yourself “sleep bankrupt” and start fresh. If you can, plan a “sleep staycation.”
If you’re going to take some time off and catch up on sleep (and you can do that without losing your job), make sleep your priority. Don’t schedule a home remodel, plan a slew a trip or try and get all your laundry and chores done—just sleep. It’s recommended to plan your sleep staycation when you have a relatively clean schedule.
During staycation, it’s recommended you sleep until your body wakes up naturally.
“At the beginning, you may be sleeping 12 hours or more a night; by the end, you'll be getting about the amount you regularly need to awake refreshed,” say the Harvard experts.
Remember that amount and plan to get it regularly from that point on. If that means you need to leave some dishes unwashed or your favorite TV show in the queue until you’re caught up on sleep, then so be it! Go to bed at the necessary time in order to get as many hours of sleep as your body needs.
Combatting Sleep Debt: Get the Rest you Need
Maybe you’re thinking, “easier said than done. I can’t force my body to sleep eight hours every night.” (We feel you!) If leaving chores undone leaves you heading for bed feeling stressed, making it tough to fall asleep, then you may need to make a few changes.
Here are some tips for creating a home environment that promotes healthy, restful sleep, so you can go to bed stress-free (or as stress-free as possible).
Make your bedroom a sacred place.
Even the experts at Harvard say your bedroom should be reserved only for relaxing things such as sleep, meditation and other calm activities like reading and connecting with loved ones. If your room is full of clutter such as papers that need organizing, the remnants of a scrapbooking project you’ve abandoned or piles of dirty laundry, it’s not going to be a restful place for your body or your mind.
Avoid caffeine after noon.
We all love our morning cup of joe (and no one is suggesting you give that up)! But, when you find yourself feel sleepy post-lunch, try to avoid going for extra caffeine and try other things to help wake you up. Go for a walk or get some fresh air. Avoiding mid-day caffeine will help promote better rest at night.
Be careful about naps.
Raise your hand if you love to nap. (We sure do!) Nap when you can—but be careful. Napping too often or too long can interfere with your nighttime sleep routine. Read on for some valuable tips on how to nap like a pro.
Try relaxing background noise.
White noise can be very effective at helping to clear your mind it’s time for bed. You can also try playing natural sounds like ocean waves or rain. Even spa sounds can be relaxing.
Keep your sleep schedule consistent.
The best way to promote a healthy sleep routine is to keep it consistent. Creating a sleep schedule can help with that. Figure out how much sleep is best for you (as we mentioned before, doctors recommend seven to nine hours for adults) and what time you need to go to bed and wake up to achieve it. Try sticking to the same bedtime and the wake time, every night during the week.
Avoid screen time right before bed.
Of course, we all love to binge-watch our favorite shows and catch up on our Instagram feeds before—but experts say it can negatively impact our sleep. The blue light emitted by screens effects our brain and eyes, which in turn effects our sleep. Try to take 15 to 20 minutes before bed to detox from that blue light and wind down with a few relaxing yoga moves, or a hot cup of tea.
Create a sleep sanctuary.
You deserve a bedroom that makes you feel calm, less stressed and relaxed the second you walk in the door. To invite better sleep and deeper rest, surround yourself with things that are comfortable.
That all starts with the right mattress. The Leesa Original Mattress provides the comfort you want in a mattress and that pressure relief you need, made with hole-punched top layer foam for a cooler night’s rest. With advanced contouring, the Leesa Original Mattress was made for all body types and sleep positions. Our Leesa Sapira Hybrid Mattress offers cooling, supportive, premium comfort foam and memory foam layers, along with more than 1,000 individually-wrapped pocket springs for maximum support from edge to edge.
The Leesa Pillow is both cooling and contouring, made with memory foam to help support your head and neck no matter which position you like to sleep in (or how many times you change positions during the night). For extra customization, the Leesa Hybrid Pillow is adjustable and reversible with a cooling gel side and reverse quilted side.
Finally, consider adding relaxing touches such as photos or art that invite cozy feelings, and perhaps some scented candles or essential oils that make your space feel more zen. Once you’re surrounded by the sights, sounds and feelings of a relaxing bedroom, we’re willing to bet that quality rest won’t be hard to achieve.
Show your Bedroom Some Love
Of course, once you’ve found the perfect bed setup, be sure to care for it, so you can get years of better, deeper rest. Head over to our Resource Guide for tips on caring for your mattress, sheets, pillows and more, so you can create a bed that loves you back.
Say goodbye to sleep debt. Upgrade your rest with Leesa.