We’ve all said it: “I’ll stay up late tonight and sleep late this weekend.” But can our bodies really catch up on sleep that we’ve lost? It seems logical to make up for lost Zs, but it doesn’t work exactly like this myth suggests.
We can make up for a portion of the hours we lost on the weekend but not all of it.
“Yes, people can make up for lost sleep on another day,” says Dr. Chuck Smith, one of our primary care physicians at UAMS. “The amount of sleep lost and recovered may not be the same, though. Most of the first few hours of sleep can be recovered, but if the amount of sleep lost is more than a few hours, not all of it will be recovered.”
Dr. Smith says that if you lose only five hours of sleep throughout the week, you can probably recover most of the five hours over the weekend. However, you may not recover all of the lost sleep if you lose over 20 hours.
Fortunately, even if you do lose a large amount of sleep throughout the week, Dr. Smith says that the body has its own recovery system that makes it easier for us to bounce back from a sleep deficit. And we may not even need to recover all the hours we failed to get.
“By nature our bodies try to recover as much of deep sleep and REM sleep that is lost and may forego other stages of sleep,” he says.
So how much sleep should we get each night? Generally, we need to have at least seven to eight hours of good quality sleep, Dr. Reddy says. And getting more or less than seven or eight hours a night can actually affect lifespan.
In order to get a good quality sleep, you must have “good sleep hygiene,” he says. Here are a few good sleep hygiene tips from Dr. Smith:
- Have strict times for going to bed and waking up. “It can vary a little, but for the most part they should remain fairly consistent.”
- Before going to bed, have a routine activity such as reading a book or listening to music.
- Do not watch TV or play on the computer right before bedtime. “The bright light stimulates your brain so that you cannot fall asleep.”
- Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m. and avoid excess caffeine in the morning.
- Do not take naps. “If you really need a nap make sure it lasts no longer than 20 minutes.”