We’ve all been there. Whether it’s because of a hectic day of work and other obligations, or the less-than-wise decision to stay up past our bedtime to finish a good book or watch one more episode of our favorite show, sometimes we get less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night (via Sleep Foundation).
It’s common to brush off our fatigue by buying an extra large latte and promising ourselves that we’ll “catch up” on sleep over the weekend by sleeping in or treating ourselves to a long nap. But, unfortunately for us night owls, experts say it’s not quite that simple.
Meredith Broderick, M.D., sleep specialist and founder of Sound Sleep Guru told Shape that you acquire “sleep debt” when you consistently don’t get enough shut-eye. “Sleep debt is an accumulated need for sleep,” Broderick explained. So if your body needs eight hours of sleep to stay healthy and you only sleep for six hours every weeknight, you’ve accumulated 10 hours of debt that week.
Why doesn't "catching up" on sleep work?
According to Shape, it’s not a huge deal if you occasionally fall short on hours of sleep per night and sleep an extra hour when you get the chance. But if you consistently don’t get enough sleep, you’ll continue to accumulate sleep debt, which is often accompanied by side effects ranging from poor concentration, to depression, to increased risk of heart disease.
Rather than relying on band-aids like naps and sleeping extra hours on the weekends, experts recommend establishing a consistent sleep routine. Per Healthline, there are a few things you need to do to improve your sleep patterns. Figure out what time you need to go to bed in order to get enough hours of sleep and start getting into bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you’ve reached the ideal bedtime. The outlet also recommends keeping a steady sleep schedule, which means you shouldn’t sleep more than two hours past your set “waking hour,” even if it’s a Saturday.
Although our society often sends the message that we should always be on the go and sleep isn’t a priority, Healthline notes that you’ll actually be more productive in the long-term if you get enough sleep. Consistently sleeping between seven and nine hours each night benefits your mental health and your immune system, and it also improves concentration and long-term memory — so your waking hours will be much more productive if you’re running on eight hours of sleep rather than five.
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