Catching Up on Sleep: Is it Possible, and How Do You Do It?
Sleep is super important for a healthy mind and body — but sometimes, getting enough sleep can seem impossible. Work, friends, family, stress, meal prep, working out, and late-night Netflix binges can all get in the way of a good night’s sleep. And after a restless night (or a few in a row) you may wonder: How do you catch up on sleep? Is catching up on sleep even possible?
Can You Catch Up On Sleep?
It depends, says Katie Golde, Certified Sleep Science Coach and Editor and Head of Sleep Research for Mattress Clarity.
If you’re talking about short-term sleep deprivation — like missing a few hours of sleep for one or two nights — then a few extra hours of sleep on the weekend may be enough to help you “catch up” and feel well-rested.
But if skimping on sleep becomes a habit, catching up on sleep isn’t so easy. “If you’re dealing with chronic long-term sleep deprivation — meaning you’re not getting the recommended amount of sleep per night for weeks or months — one weekend of extra sleep won’t be enough to catch up,” Golde says.
Long-term sleep deprivation, aka “sleep debt,” can affect your mood, your memory, your appetite, and your overall health — and it takes consistent sleep, night after night, to start reducing those negative effects.
How To Catch Up On Sleep
If you fall into the chronically exhausted camp, there are a few tips that may help you get back on-track. Here are 5 ways to implement better sleep habits and get the rest you need.
1. Get on a schedule.
If possible, go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. “This helps to balance your circadian rhythm and also helps cue your body so it knows it’s time for bed,” Golde says. Set a reminder on your phone to start getting ready for bed each night, and an alarm to wake up each morning (yep, even on weekends).
2. Power down.
Taking a hot bath or reading a book may help you power down your mind and body at the end of the day, Golde says. Power down your devices, too — the blue light from screens can disrupt your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.
3. Avoid alcohol before bed.
You might think that relaxing with a drink before bed would help you sleep better, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, alcohol before bedtime may interfere with restorative REM sleep. (And the middle-of-the-night bathroom trips don’t help.) “Even a glass of wine or beer can have a negative effect on the quality of your sleep,” Golde says.
4. Nap responsibly.
After a rough night’s sleep, it’s okay to take a nap — but Golde suggests limiting naps to 30 minutes or less, early in the day. Longer naps may lead to a groggy feeling called sleep inertia, and napping too late in the day may affect the length and quality of your nighttime sleep schedule.
5. Talk to a doctor.
Still struggling to feel “caught up” on sleep? “I’d always recommend chatting with your doctor before starting any sort of medication or sleep aid therapy,” Golde says. If a health issue is interfering with your ability to sleep, your doctor can help you plan the best course of action.