World Sleep Day: How to Catch Up on Your Sleep Deficit

Fri 19th Mar 2021

The best way to catch up on sleep
Feel like you could sleep for a year? That may be because you haven’t slept well in a year. In a survey of 2,500 people from 49 countries published in January 2021, 58 percent reported being unsatisfied with their sleep and two in five said their sleep quality has suffered since the COVID-19 crisis.
Researchers blame two things for our lack of restful Zzz’s: stress and messed up circadian rhythms.
We don’t need to rehash the last 12 months to prove that all of us felt at least some extra tension. Because of this, you’ve probably experienced first-hand how stress can exacerbate existing sleep problems (like insomnia) and cause new ones.
It can be so tempting to sleep super late on the weekends or take an extra-long nap on your days off. However, doing so may only make things worse. Instead, try these expert tips for reducing your sleep debt.
Always get up at the same time every day
Yes, even on Saturday and Sunday. Get out of bed, have something to eat, walk around outside to get some sunlight exposure, and then see how you feel. “This will at least keep your rhythm of wake, meal timing, and light exposure in the morning,” says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., author of The Sleep Solution. “If you are feeling really bent [after this], go back to bed. But you might feel pretty good.” If you are, think how much more productive you’ll be in those extra hours—and how much more self-care you can fit in too!
Or go ahead and sleep in—a little. An extra hour (or maybe a little more) spent dozing is OK, according to Michael Grandner, Ph.D., director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona. “I’m not saying don’t sleep in, because sometimes the extra sleep you get on weekends is good,” he says.
Take a power nap
Naps aren’t just for kids. Adults can certainly use them—and there’s a way to maximize their effect. When we sleep, we alternate between light sleep and deep sleep. “You don’t want to wake up in deep sleep. If you do, you will likely feel grumpy, tired, and sluggish,” Grandner says. This is why you only want to nap for 20 to 30 minutes, tops. This length will keep you in light sleep and help you feel less tired and better overall.
Go to bed earlier
This one can be harder, and the last thing you want to do is get into bed and just lie there. However, you can make it happen.
Your plan starts in the morning. Expose yourself to very bright light as early as you can to set your internal clock for the day, which may help you feel tired earlier in the evening, Grandner says. At night, starting about an hour before bed, dim the lights and don’t do anything too mentally engaging. That means no work and no good TV shows.
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Image credit: Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash

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