Do you think you're getting enough sleep? Are you tired in the middle of the day? Perhaps you stayed up late to get your homework done or worked after-hours at the office? No matter what the reason, without sufficient sleep you won't be able to function normally—especially if it's a regular occurrence.
Lack of sleep over an extended period could put you at risk for serious health problems like heart disease or stroke and can contribute to the symptoms of depression and dampen your immune response. There's no way around it, the repercussions of lack of sleep will have both physical and mental implications.
Yes, you can catch up on lost sleep.
While the number of hours of sleep we need depends on our age, experts recommend that adults need between seven and nine hours each night. So let's say that last night you got just four hours (thanks to six episodes of Game of Thrones); that means that you are in at least three hours of sleep debt. Your goal should now be to minimize the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep by getting better rest the following nights.
But don't make it a habit.
Although it is possible to catch up on lost sleep, we also need to take some extra steps to make sure we are making the most of the sleep we are already getting, tack on an extra hour or two each night, and make well-deserved and much-needed rest a top priority. Admittedly this is easier said than done, especially when we've already established some bad sleep habits. But there is also a lot you can do to be proactive. Tools like wellness portals can be helpful for encouraging new habits and understanding what lifestyle factors (like sleep) may be putting you at risk for a less-than-healthy future. Here are are some other strategies to help you get more sleep so that you aren't always playing catchup:
1. Make a schedule and stick to it.
This may sound obvious, but it's also the hardest tip to adhere to. Nobody wants to get up on the weekend at the same time as they would during the week, but trying to be consistent with your sleep habits is an important part of getting a consistent amount of rest.
2. Avoid taking naps, especially during the afternoon.
Some research suggests that naps won't affect sleep quality, but if you are having problems sleeping at night, taking a 3 p.m. snooze could be standing in your way of getting to sleep at night. If you must nap, do it early in the day!
3. Feng shui your bedroom for sleep.
It's also important to ensure that your bedroom environment promotes healthy sleep habits. You may find that a quiet and dark room will help, and I would also recommend keeping the pets out and removing technology.
4. Don't forget to exercise!
Exercising regularly will help you not only fall asleep faster but enjoy deeper sleep. You can experiment with exercising in the morning, afternoon, or evening to find out what works best to promote your sleep pattern.
5. Address any stressors in your life.
Stress is a major cause of insomnia. Have you experienced lying in bed worrying about the kids, what you forgot to do at work, or your finances? Removing the clock from your bedroom will help mitigate stress so you won't be constantly checking the time, which can make it harder to fall asleep.
6. Watch what you eat and drink.
Most of us know that caffeine is are on the "avoid" list three hours before bedtime, but unfortunately, the list also includes chocolate, alcohol, spicy foods, and nightcaps.
Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to sleep.
To make up for evenings of binge-watching or late-night studying, try to compensate the next evening by getting more sleep than on other nights—but don't make it a habit. It's not uncommon to catch up on sleep over the weekend if you do not get enough during the week, but this is just a crutch. And sleeping all weekend will not make up for getting four hours of sleep each night during the week.