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Can You Catch Up On Missed Sleep?

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Woman Waking Up

If you are anything like most of us you have had a night or two without enough sleep. Or maybe you have had a few week stretches where you were only getting 4-5 hours of sleep per night. I know that moms can relate to this for sure.

It’s such a nice feeling when you get the chance to get a solid 10-hour long night of sleep in hopes to rejuvenate yourself and ‘catch up’ on the sleep you have missed out on. That all sounds nice but can you really catch up on sleep?

Spoiler alert: Studies have shown that your body does not really catch up on sleep. We wish there was a different answer for our sake and yours. But there are things that you can do to get better rest and help you feel and perform your best. 

How Many Hours of ‘Good’ Sleep Should You Get

So we’ve already dispelled the myth that you can catch up on sleep. We too wish that it was possible, but that’s not the way we were made. But how much sleep is enough sleep?

Like so many other things in life, the answer to this question is ‘it depends’. I know, we don’t really like that answer either. But the fact is that different people have varying amounts of sleep that they need to function at their best. Some of that has to do with age, and even genetics in some cases.

In the end, it’s really up to each individual to pay attention to their sleep patterns and determine the amount of sleep that they actually need each night to feel their best. You will noticeably feel better as you are hitting your sleep goals.

What Constitutes ‘Good’ Sleep?

Something that many people fail to realize is that it is not just the amount of hours of sleep that is important. That seems to be the most important thing talked about. While it is obviously important, the quality of sleep during those sleep times is also very important. The restorative types of sleep that we are referring to are known as ‘deep sleep’ and ‘REM sleep’.

Overall, there are considered to be 4 stages of sleep and also REM sleep. Stages 3 and 4 are considered to be deep sleep and stages 1,2, and REM sleep actually falls under light sleeping. 

Deep Sleep

Deep sleep during stages 3 and 4 are incredibly important to your overall health. The deep sleep stages are when your body actually repairs itself and is also when you are building up energy for the coming day.

During deep sleep, your body goes through some physical profound processes that help to rejuvenate and revitalize. Processes such as breathing, heartbeat, body temperature, and brain waves reach their lowest levels. Researchers have also discovered that your muscles become incredibly relaxed during the deep sleep stage. 

These two stages are also when your body heals itself through tissue growth and repairing tissues. These things are accomplished as your body releases hormones to help with these processes and help to restore energy to your body. These stages are also when you are the most difficult to be able to wake up.

REM Sleep

REM sleep occurs in a cycle of approximately every 90 minutes throughout the night. During this cycle, often referred to as stage 5, your eyes actually move behind your closed eyelids and your brain activity is similar to when you are awake. Oddly enough your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure are all levels that are similar to when you are awake. This is the stage of sleep when you are also the most likely to have dreams.

Is It Different For Men/Women/Teens/Children?

We mentioned before that the amount of sleep that your body needs each night depends on each individual. There are some definite guidelines that have been laid out by the National Sleep Foundation. This would be a very good place to start as you are determining the best sleep schedule for you and your family.

AgeHours NeededMay be appropriate
Newborn to 3 months14-17 hours11-19 hours
4 to 11 months12-15 hours10-18 hours
1 to 2 years11-14 hours9-16 hours
3 to 5 years10-13 hours8-14 hours
6 to 13 years9-11 hours7-12 hours
14 to 17 years8-10 hours7-11 hours
18 to 25 years7-9 hours6-11 hours
26 to 64 years7-9 hours6-10 hours
65+ years7-8 hours5-9 hours

You will notice that 6 hours of sleep is listed as possibly being enough sleep for people ages 18 to 64 years old. For the normal person, 6 hours is not considered to be enough sleep on a nightly basis. A study done by researchers at the University of California discovered that there is actually a genetic trait that allows some people to function at their best with just 6 hours of sleep per night. The kicker is that they estimate only 3% of the population has this particular gene. So most likely 6 hours of sleep is not enough for you.

Some Queues That You Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

Eight hours continues to be the ‘magic number’ when it comes to the ideal amount of sleep for most normal adults. The problem is, if you aren’t getting a full eight hours of sleep you may not even realize that you are not getting enough sleep. 

Just because you aren’t falling asleep in the middle of a conversation at work doesn’t mean that you are getting enough sleep. The fact is that your body may have just become used to feeling tired and you don’t even remember what it feels like to be well-rested. Here are some signs that you may be deprived of sleep…

  • You need to set your alarm to wake up on time
  • You have a hard time getting out of bed each morning
  • You rely heavily on the snooze button
  • You need to nap during the day
  • Feel sluggish in the afternoon
  • Feel drowsy while driving
  • Fall asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed

One of these may not point to your lack of sleep. However, if you are experiencing a combination of these things you really should pay closer attention to your sleep habits to make sure you are getting adequate rest. An ongoing lack of sleep can lead to more serious health concerns down the road.

More Serious Implications of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is not something to be taken lightly. It’s one thing to have a night here or there where you don’t get enough sleep, but frequent lack of sleep can be dangerous both in the short term as well as the long term.

Some effects of sleep deprivation can include:

  • Increased risk of depression
  • Fatigue and lack of motivation
  • Decreased libido
  • Impaired ability to concentrate and learn
  • More stress, anxiety, and emotional problems
  • Premature aging of the skin
  • Weakened immune system

On top of these, a lack of sleep can also lead to very serious problems such as an increased risk of having a stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, and even some types of cancer.

Tips for Better Rest

If you are someone who is not getting the proper amount of sleep you may be causing harm to your health without fully realizing it. Your body may have gotten used to it for the time being but in the long run, you can be sure that a lack of sleep on a regular basis will catch up to you in the end. 

Here are some practical tips that you can implement to help you get more rest at night.

  • Keep your bedroom dark and relaxing when it’s time to go to sleep. It’s actually better if you don’t have a TV in your bedroom
  • Try to keep to a regular schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day helps to keep your biological clock and helps with better rest.
  • Exercise. You want to shoot for 30 minutes of exercise for 3 days a week at a minimum. Just not too close to bedtime.
  • Watch what you are consuming. Sugar, alcohol, and caffeine are known to inhibit sleep.
  • Reduce stress in your life. This is easier said than done, we know. More likely you will have to learn how to manage stress better because stress is a part of life.

There are some other obvious things to consider as well such as finding a better mattress and/or a better pillow. There are also various sleep aids available on the market. There are so many out there but our favorite is CBD. It is all-natural and we have found it to work very well for us as well as many of our readers.

Final Thoughts

Sleep deprivation is not something you want to make a habit of. It would be one thing if you were able to catch up on your sleep but it simply doesn’t even out. That’s why getting into a routine is very important.

A lack of sleep can lead to a host of problems. Sometimes these can be subtle such as feeling fatigued in the afternoon or during a meeting. But if left unchecked sleep deprivation can lead to more serious problems.

The good thing is that for many people it is correctable. There are ways to improve your sleep habits and to get yourself on the right track to maintaining a consistent and healthy sleep schedule. 

If you are having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep you should carefully rule out medical issues as the cause. It is possible that you could have some sort of underlying physical or mental ailment that could be causing your sleep problems. It could also be something like interaction with certain medications that are not allowing you to sleep. Please consult a medical professional to rule these types of things out as well.

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