Sleep debt: Can you catch up on sleep?
Today’s topic is all about sleep debt!
"Is there a way to catch up on sleep?" That was the question of one of my Instagram followers. There's a yes-and-no answer to that. But, the long-term answer is nope, sorry. No, you can't.
Here is why there's a good side and a bad side to this:
Number one: Sleep debt means that you didn't give your body enough time or enough sleep to do what its job is, which is healing you. Healing broken-down cells or damaged cells, rebalancing hormones and helping your mental health. Sleep needs a certain time to get the job done, which is why we have 4 to 5 sleep cycles, so that it can basically send out its little army and get its magic done.
It's really like having this little cleaning troupe going through your body and taking care of everything. It has this checklist and it goes, "Okay, okay, we took care of this, this, this, this and this."
That is why sleep is so important!
Now, if you don't sleep enough, sleep is obviously going to do its best to get done what it needs to get done. However, it's not going to be able to tick off all the boxes. What happens is, people who are chronically sleep-deprived, their bodies notice it and sleep is prioritizing.
Sleep will always get the most essential thing done so that you don't die, but there is a lot that is left over. It's basically like if you just do a swift clean instead of a proper cleaning. You will have more and more stuff piling up. I like to compare it to water. My water here is pretty chalky. So, I wipe my appliances, my faucet and accessories in my shower every time I take a shower, because then it's nice and shiny. If I don't do that, I have these white leftovers chalky stains (limescale) that are starting to stay, and I need to scrub and use special cleaners to get rid of it. That's why sleep is like taking that rag and just getting everything clean straight away.
Number two: Damage that has been done during sleep deprivation, won’t be repaired by sleep, because, again, it only has a certain amount of time to get everything on the checklist done. Even if you sleep a little bit more, you will never be able to catch up quite as much of the sleep that you've stolen from it. The checklist is going to be full again at some point, but all the boxes that have not been ticked off over the period of time when you didn't get enough sleep, will stay unchecked. So the damage is done.
Having said that, though, if you don't sleep for a long period of time, and then you catch up on sleep over the weekend, what happens is, if you don't sleep enough, you have hormones being deregulated and all kinds of stuff is a little bit out of balance. When you catch up with your sleep, those hormones and that balance is being regained as much as possible. So, in that way, yes, you can catch up, you can basically help your body come back into balance so that everything is running smoothly again, but the damage that has been done, has been done.
That’s why it's unfortunately bad news, for shift workers, nurses and any other professions that mess with our sleep. The only thing you can do then is to try and do everything to get quality sleep, when you do sleep, and get naps in between to help your body recuperate as much as you can.
That would be the answer for, "Can I catch up on sleep debt."
I hope this was helpful for you. Let me know if you have any further questions, and I'll address them.
Have a wonderful week and I’ll be back next week!
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