If you believe that you’re not getting enough sleep, take heart, it’s probably not as big a deal as you might be thinking, according to recent research. Just to clarify, if your mood is cheerful and stable throughout the day and you feel alert, then it’s likely that you are getting enough sleep, regardless of the apparent recommended amount for your age group. This is the view of Jim Horne, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychophysiology at Loughborough University, England, distinguished author of the book Sleeplessness.
However, should you be feeling the effects of a few nights of poor sleep, there are things to do to help remedy the situation and return you to your old bouncy self. In other words, the damage can be undone with a return to good sleeping patterns.
Getting back on track after a few nights of tossing and turning, could be as easy as following these easy, research-based strategies. (Or just take off to one of the best hotels for a sleep-centric vacation.)
Don’t Let One Night’s Bad Sleep Worry You
Research from Northwestern University shows that the body has a self-restorative mechanism of instinctively giving you more of the deep-sleep you need the next night. This is the kind of sleeps which you need to boost your health and to help you stay on top of things during the day. You can also actively help with the catch-up process by taking a couple of minutes at an appropriate time in your day to meditate or to clear your mind. This may even lead to your body beginning its recovery process before you get to your next night’s ‘catch-up’, deep sleep. Even better is to find time for a brief nap, if this is at all possible. The science tells us that there are guidelines around what time is useful napping and what you should avoid – read how long your nap should be.
Practice the One-Third Plan
Good news – you don’t need to try to recover every hour of sleep you may have lost! Our expert tells us that it’s really only the deep sleep you are needing to recover, and this usually comprises only about one-third of your total sleep lost. Losing about an hour or so every week night can be compensated for by just an extra two or three hours over the weekend. And a bit more good news – naps count towards those catch-up hours you’re calculating.
What you should keep in mind is that the best way to get back on track is to get that extra sleep as early as you possibly can, according to David F. Dinges, Ph.D., the chief of the Sleep and Chronobiology in Psychiatry Division at the University of Pennsylvania. Delaying a return to good sleep patterns is most likely going to leave you feeling thick-headed and tetchy. (Try these tips to reduce stress and fall into a deeper sleep.)
When Should You Do Your Catch-Up Sleep?
You’ll get more ‘bang for your buck’ by going to bed earlier to catch up on sleep rather than snoozing in for a couple of hours extra. This is because the most restorative sleep is the deep sleep we generally experience most of in the first couple of hours of the night. Later sleep tends to be lighter and is less restorative to our overall general wellbeing. And the morning sleep beyond our usual wake-up time tends to be light and full of dreams when our minds are less relaxed and too active to get the full benefit of the catch-up we’re aiming for.
Sleeping in can also have a disruptive effect on being able to fall asleep at our usual time later that evening.
To sum up, while an extra hour or two on the weekends is probably okay, more than that is likely to counter-productive and will simply disrupt our biological clock.