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Last Updated on January 11, 2021

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

More by this author

Jolie Choi

Having experienced her own extreme transformation process, Jolie strongly believes that staying healthy takes determined and consistent action.

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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

7 Signs of a Thyroid Problem That You Should Not Ignore

7 Signs of a Thyroid Problem That You Should Not Ignore

An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from some type of thyroid problem. It may be a sad surprise, but approximately 15 million people are silent sufferers of thyroid disease.

This is quite unsettling for anyone who is taken unaware by a thyroid disorder, as it can lead to some serious health complications, such as weight loss or weight gain, infertility, mood changes, etc. If you’re a female aged 35 or above, you have greater risk of acquiring the disorder. What’s more, an underactive thyroid in children can be life-threatening. 

That all sounds like bad news, but a thyroid problem does have solutions once you know what’s going on. 

Huge Responsibility for a Tiny Gland

Breathing, central and peripheral nervous system regulation, heart rate, muscle strength, body weight, menstrual cycles, cholesterol levels, body temperature, and the list continues—this small, butterfly-shaped gland has got a huge job description that includes regulating numerous body systems and releasing hormones.

The one thing that confuses people (and sometimes even doctors) when identifying thyroid disorders is the variety of signs and symptoms that can develop. This makes it tough to detect the root cause of any thyroid problem[1].

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Anatomy of the thyroid

    Are you experiencing sleepiness, a foggy brain, or weight loss? You could be one of the 20 million people with a thyroid problem. If you are nervous about a potential thyroid disorder, these symptoms should ring the alarm for you.

    1. No Sex Drive

    Hypothyroidism is a killer of sex drive. Low libido is often linked with too little thyroid hormone, as the thyroid shares a connection with adrenal glands, as well as sexual hormones. Complaints of low testosterone levels have also been resolved through thyroid treatment.

    Thyroid problems have also been linked to vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable for women. For men, a thyroid problem can cause hormonal imbalances that can lead to erectile disfunction. Basically, a problem with your thyroid is a problem for your sex life[2].

    2. Dry, Itchy Skin

    Rashes may appear as poor thyroid function weakens your blood circulation, changing the appearance of your skin. Moreover, less sweat is a result of a slow metabolism, which can make your skin dry and flaky due to a lack of moisture.

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    3. Lazy Digestive Tract

    You could be constipated due to the slowing down of your bodily functions because of hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, can force you to visit the restroom very frequently, or you may even suffer from diarrhea.

    Furthermore, you may experience chest pain due to a change in stomach acid. Nausea and vomiting can also occur, so don’t take these symptoms lightly[3].

    4. Irregular Body Temperature

    It’s simple: hypothyroidism will always lower the body temperature, while hyperthyroidism will always increase it. Correct amounts of thyroid hormones regulate body temperature by increasing available energy in the body, and they also increase appetite, pulse, the levels of oxygen delivered to different body parts, and fat buildup, depending on your level of activity.

    Thyroid hormones are also in charge of regulating ATP, which is the energy currency in a cell. This is why your body temperature changes: too much ATP (hyperthyroidism) will cause the body to produce too much heat, and too little (hypothyroidism) won’t produce enough[4].

    It’s important to note that menopause can cause such changes as well, so you’ll need to confirm a thyroid problem with your doctor.

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    5. Unexplained Pain

    Are your muscles causing you pain for no reason? It could be a sign of low thyroid function. Hypothyroidism means less metabolism-controlling hormones, which causes disruption in metabolism activity, which can cause nerve damage.

    6. Fatigue and Forgetfulness

    Are you feeling down and experiencing a constant lack of energy? A lack of hormones may be the reason. This hurts your brain and neurological functioning and causes sleeplessness, constant tiredness, and fatigue. An underactive thyroid turns your mood down as many bodily functions slow down.

    Are you experiencing symptoms of depression? This may be the time to get your thyroid tested.

    7. Weight Gain/Loss

    You are eating the same foods, in the same amounts, but you are still gaining or losing wait. If you can’t button up the same size pants you were wearing before, or your clothes seem to be falling off you, you may have a thyroid problem that’s throwing your metabolism off.

    This has everything to do with the way your body uses energy. We talked about ATP above. If you’re body isn’t using the energy it’s receiving, you will begin to gain weight. If it’s using too much, you will lose weight[5].

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    The Bottom Line

    If you suspect you may have a thyroid problem, having a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test done will help you boil things down to a clear and accurate result. Blood tests and physical exams will help your doctor determine if you have a problem with your thyroid.  

    If your thyroid reports reveal that you have a problem, you descend into depression or panic. Exercise has proved to be quite effective; besides, you can normalize your thyroid functioning by eating the right foods[6].

    Your doctor will aim to bring your thyroid activity back to a normal pace—not too fast or too slow. You must cooperate with your doctor, as negligence can make the disorder lifelong. Medications are helpful in most cases. Either way, waste no time and get diagnosed early—the faster you’re treated, the better you will recover.

    More on Overcoming a Thyroid Problem

    Featured photo credit: engin akyurt via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Office on Women’s Health: Thyroid Disease
    [2] Penn Medicine: How Thyroid Problems Might Be Hurting Your Sex Life
    [3] Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: The thyroid and the gut
    [4] Boost Thyroid: Basal body temperature and thyroid function
    [5] British Thyroid Foundation: Thyroid and weight – the science
    [6] Bel Marra Health: Hypothyroidism diet: Foods for underactive thyroid

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