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Why You Can't Pay off a Sleep Debt You've Accumulated Over the Week

Why You Can't Pay off a Sleep Debt You've Accumulated Over the Week
From Lifehack - October 13, 2017

Weve all been there: youve woken up promptly at 6 or 7 in the morning Monday through Friday, dragging and exhausted as you got ready for work. Then when Saturday rolls around, you wake up and check your phone to discover its already noon.Weve all been there: youve woken up promptly at 6 or 7 in the morning Monday through Friday, dragging and exhausted as you got ready for work. Then when Saturday rolls around, you wake up and check your phone to discover its already noon.

While this is something we can relate to, its not actually normal. When you dont sleep enough during the week yet wake up early every day, you may try to compensate for that sleep-deprivation you feel by sleeping in on the weekend. However, you may have noticed that even when you sleep until late in the day on a weekend, you still feel like you arent caught up in your rest. So you make the typical promises to yourself; youll get to bed sooner tonight, you wont stay out so late next week, but those promises typically go unfulfilled and you typically go restless.

Sleeping can never be compensated

Sleep and your health isnt like the bank; you cant sleep off a debt youve accumulated during the week in an attempt to pay off the sleep debt. As youve probably noticed, no matter how hard you try, you cant gain back that lost energy over the week, no matter how late you try to sleep on the weekends.

Lets assume you were only able to catch six hours of shut eye Monday through Friday. You decide that if you can sleep an extra ten hours on the weekend, youll be able to catch up and essentially start over. While its a nice idea, its not a realistic one. In fact, your reacting times and ability to focus will tend to be worse than if you had pulled an all-nighter.

If you slept poorly last night, or just not enough, you may have a chance to make up for it, but only if you make up for it tonight. If you try to catch on lost sleep over a long period of time, you wont succeed.1

While some of you may have just read that and thought, hmm, that means I can go to bed late tonight to finish up my project and Ill just make up for it later, dont be tempted. Sleeping late on the weekend to try to make up for the lost time will only result in further disrupting your sleeping pattern. Youll only feel worse.2

One such study, done by Northwestern University, has shown that when animals are sleep deprivedeven partiallyover consecutive days, they actually make no attempt to make up for that lost sleep.3 This study is the first to prove repeated (although partial) sleep loss negatively affects an animals ability to compensate for that lost rest. And as animals ourselves, we can learn from this fact.

Catching up a sleep debt later makes your brain suffer

No matter what youre doing late at night, sleep should be a priority. The more tired you are, the harder it is to accomplish even the smallest task. Even menial tasks like participating in a conversation with someone can seem particularly challenging because focus requires an intensity that you can only achieve through rest. The distraction you experience due to sleep loss is serious. Not to mention how dangerous that can make something like driving.4

Lack of sleep also impacts short-term memory. Research has shown that sleep deprivation has a big impact on verbal learning and cognitive understanding. The findings show that,5

An extra hour of sleep a night for a rested feeling

Owe no sleep debt

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