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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

We’ve all been there: you’ve 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 it’s already noon.

While this is something we can relate to, it’s not actually “normal.” When you don’t 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 aren’t caught up in your rest. So you make the typical promises to yourself; you’ll get to bed sooner tonight, you won’t 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 isn’t like the bank; you can’t sleep off a debt you’ve accumulated during the week in an attempt to pay off the sleep debt. As you’ve probably noticed, no matter how hard you try, you can’t gain back that lost energy over the week, no matter how late you try to sleep on the weekends.

Let’s 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, you’ll be able to catch up and essentially start over. While it’s a nice idea, it’s 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.

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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 won’t 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 I’ll just make up for it later,’ don’t 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. You’ll only feel worse.[2]

One such study, done by Northwestern University, has shown that when animals are sleep deprived – even partially – over 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 animal’s 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 you’re 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]

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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]

“there are dynamic, compensatory changes in cerebral activation during verbal learning after sleep deprivation and implicate the PFC and parietal lobes in this compensation”

Essentially, we overcompensate in our sleepy state and hyper-focus on what someone is saying to us-but only in the moment. We quickly forget the information and that can lead to embarrassing forgotten events.

An extra hour of sleep a night for a rested feeling

Go to bed when you are tired; don’t try to fight it. Set reminders to get you to sleep earlier. You may start with setting an alarm to remind you to sleep half an hour earlier at night, and then reset it to an hour earlier a week later. Gradually you’ll get used to sleeping earlier.

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If you have to be on your phone or computer before bed, dim the screen brightness to aid you in the transition to darkness.

If at all possible, allow your body to wake you up naturally in the morning (this means no alarms). As your body resets itself over time, you may feel a bit worse before you feel better, but be patient.[6]

“As you erase sleep debt, your body will come to rest at a sleep pattern that is specifically right for you. Sleep researchers believe that genes—although the precise ones have yet to be discovered—determine our individual sleeping patterns. That more than likely means you can’t train yourself to be a “short sleeper”—and you’re fooling yourself if you think you’ve done it.

More than anything, make sure you listen to your body. If you feel you would sleep later than the alarm you have set in the morning, or like you need coffee in the morning to focus on anything, there’s a good chance you aren’t getting the amount of sleep you need. Don’t get caught up in aiming for 7 hours, 8 or even 9 hours of sleep. Instead, focus on what your body is telling you and how you feel when you personally sleep for 6,7, 8, etc. hours.

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Owe no sleep debt

Whether you’re a student, a professional, or a stay-at-home parent, remember that one of your most important and essential jobs is to sleep. While there are so many articles out there telling you how many hours you should get based on gender and age, none of those articles know your body like you do; so listen to it.

Whenever possible, skip the morning alarm. Enjoy coffee if it’s something you love, but if you realize you feel like you can’t function without it, determine how you could have slept better or longer the night before.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

Reference

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Jolie Choi

Gone through a few heartbreaks and lost hundreds of friends but I am still happy with my life.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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