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How to Catch Up on Sleep on the Weekend for Better Health?

Sleep Debt

Did you know that if you’re binge-watching your favorite TV show, working night shifts, or just staying up late with your friends on a regular basis, you accumulate sleep debt?

It’s a deficit of sleep and it grows each time you skip your Zs.

The good thing is, you can fully pay this debt, and you don’t even need much money.

But it won’t happen overnight.

Here are a few working tips on how to catch up on sleep on the weekend and say goodbye to your sleep debt.

 

Keep Your Bedroom Cool

To restore your energy deposits, the amount of sleep is not as important as quality.

So, how do you get quality rest?

Many scientists agree that a cool environment helps lower body temperature more quickly, which triggers the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Melatonin is important because it helps us:

  • fall asleep faster;
  • stay asleep longer;
  • regulate stress hormones.

So, be sure to adjust your thermostat to approximately 60-67°F.

You can wrap into a warm blanket if you like.

A mattress topper can become an additional cooling source. Gel or gel-infused foam models are recommended, as these materials are known for high thermal conductivity (and hence good cooling properties).

 

Make Sure You Sleep on a Good Mattress

Snoozing in an armchair or on a lumpy couch won’t help you much. You might wake up feeling broken and maybe even more tired than before.

That’s why it’s important to catch up on sleep on a comfortable mattress.

But how do you determine comfortable?

In general, comfortable mattresses should be able to do the following:

  • maintain neutral alignment of the spine in your favorite sleeping position;
  • remove the main pressure points (shoulders, hips, lower back, knees, feet, etc., depending on your sleeping position);
  • absorb motion so that you wouldn’t be disturbed by your partner’s movement.

You can start catching up on sleep on a Friday night. Just go to bed a couple of hours earlier than your usual time if you don’t have any plans. And do the same on Saturday and Sunday night. It is more effective than sleeping late in the morning.

 

Use Light Strategically

Drowsiness and fatigue are usual companions of sleep debt. The fact is, they happen when your circadian rhythms come out of sync with the time on the clock.

The best way to fix this is light.

Sunlight naturally suppresses melatonin and some inhibitory neurotransmitters, allowing you to stay more alert during the daytime.

Conversely, dim lights in the bedroom just before bedtime don’t interfere with your natural melatonin production and thus set your body into the sleep mode.

 

Take Naps During the Day

Sometimes you can’t just stay in bed for longer on the weekend because you have plenty of things to do in the morning.

But who said you can’t catch up on sleep during the day?

If there are more than 5-6 hours before you will hug your pillow, take a nap.

Note, though, that some scientists believe napping to mess the sleep schedule even more.

However, it’s still worth to try to repay your sleep debt this way. Just make sure you do it right:

  • Take a nap no more than 30-40 minutes long. Thus, you’ll wake up in the REM or light sleep stage and won’t get sleep inertia.
  • Napping for 1,5-2 hours at the peak of drowsiness is also possible. However, do not use the alarm clock in this case and let yourself wake up on your own.
  • Do not use power naps when there are no more than 2-3 hours left until bedtime. Otherwise, this nap may interrupt your schedule and increase your sleep debt.

While compensating for the lack of sleep on weekends does reduce your overall sleep debt, your attention and concentration levels may still be impaired.

 

Cut Down Your Caffeine

The extra cup of coffee may sound pretty appealing, especially if you’re a true coffee lover.

But try to resist this desire.

Caffeine is more likely to adversely affect sleep if you drink it after 3 pm. Especially on Sunday. It may lead to Sunday insomnia and, consequently, Monday fatigue.

The thing is coffee blocks the adenosine receptors in our brain. And adenosine is one of the main inhibitory neurotransmitters that make us sleepy.

But besides this, evening coffee has some more unpleasant effects:

  • it has diuretic properties that might interrupt your slumber;
  • it increases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the blood (and these are the main stress hormones that interfere with your sleep too);
  • coffee can provoke heartburn in some people, and considering the fact that this condition usually intensifies at night, it will certainly make your sleep uncomfortable.

It is better to drink warm and soothing herbal beverages, for example, chamomile or mint tea before bedtime. They will help you to calm down and you will fall asleep faster.

 

Avoid Using Gadgets While in Bed

Gadgets are a good thing for work and leisure. But they are the absolute enemy of good sleep.

Scrolling social media and video streaming services can easily drag on until morning, leaving you looking like a zombie for the rest of the day.

Also, it’s a well-known fact that blue light from phone screens suppresses melatonin production. Thus, it may become very hard to fall asleep even after you have already gone offline.

The best time to go to sleep is at 10 pm. And the period from 10 pm to 2 am is when the most restorative sleep happens.

 

Go Slow and Steady

When you really need to catch up on sleep — such as when you’ve had a sleepless night on Friday or one less hour of sleep on every night during the week — sleeping longer on weekends can work. But if you’re getting not enough sleep on a regular basis, this is not an option.

The option is:

Start implementing healthy sleep hygiene, slowly but steadily.

  • go to bed and wake up at the same time;
  • stick to your schedule even on weekends;
  • take time to wind-down from anxious thoughts before sleep.

Usually, the body makes up for the lack of sleep after only 4-5 days of a healthy routine. Therefore, try to make sleep your priority, and the quality of your life will drastically improve.

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