Can You Make Up for Lost Sleep?

Today is Labor Day, so a great part of the working nation is off, perhaps trying to make up for sleep lost trying to keep up with the Joneses and the demands of their working lives.

But is it really possible to shortchange your sleep during the workweek and then make up for it on the weekend, even a three-day weekend?

The good news is, yes, somewhat, but the bad news is, not totally if you’ve really been burning life’s candles at both ends.

According to Raghu Reddy, MD, pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), five hours is the most that can be made up for on weekends. Beyond that, you won’t get the physical and mental reparations you need.

“Yes, people can make up for lost sleep on another day,” Dr. Reddy says. “The amount of sleep lost and recovered may not be the same, though. Most of the first few hours of sleep can be recovered, but if the amount of sleep lost is more than a few hours, not all of it will be recovered.”

Our bodies do adjust to some sleep deprivation. “By nature our bodies try to recover as much of deep sleep and REM sleep that is lost and may forego other stages of sleep,” he explains.

Consistently depriving yourself of sleep — or alternately, sleeping too much — can have negative consequences for your life-span, so it’s essential to get a good sleep each and every night. And a good night’s sleep for adults generally means seven to eight hours.

Dr. Reddy, like most sleep specialists, says the key lies in developing good sleep hygiene habits, which begin with retiring and rising at the same times each and every day, Sunday through Saturday, both workdays and rest days.

There are, of course, many other keys to good sleep hygiene, including what, when and how you eat and drink — and how you handle the stress of your daily life.

So, hopefully your Labor Day will be a restful, recharging experience (unless you’re out on a long weekend trying to get a week’s worth of vacation accomplished!).  However, if you have consistent sleep problems and are sluggish and sleepy each and every day, it’s time to seek help. Your health and happiness really are at stake.

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