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How to recover from sleep deprivation: Deprived and desperate

How To Recover From Sleep Deprivation

Most adults aren’t getting enough sleep. 

That’s probably not a big surprise to most of you. 

After all, the majority of us seem to pride ourselves on how little sleep we can get away with. We’re living in a society where staying awake all night to work is usually seen as more productive than getting a good night’s rest.

Unfortunately, the truth is that no-one can survive for long being chronically sleep-deprived.

Eventually, you’ll need to start finding a way to begin recovering from sleep deprivation. Otherwise, you’ll end up putting both your body and mind at risk.

After all, the effects of sleep deprivation range all the way from an increased chance of obesity, to higher risks of depression, anxiety, and more.

Studies consistently show that consistent sleep deprivation is causing irreversible damage to our health and wellness.

So, how can you recover from sleep deprivation? Let’s find out.

Recovering from sleep deprivation: The basics

Poor sleep patterns are more dangerous than most people realise.

Though you may be able to survive the occasional all-nighter or Netflix binging session, your brain and body can’t contend with lost sleep too frequently. Shorter sleep durations and poor sleep quality are often connected with higher levels of illness and inflammation.

Scientists and medical professionals both agree that regular sleep needs to be one of the cornerstones of our strategy for health and wellbeing.

So, are you getting enough sleep?

Well, the average amount of sleep that a person needs to achieve their optimum performance levels on a daily basis is called a “sleep need”. For most of us, the sleep need equates to about seven to nine hours of good rest each night.

When you don’t get enough sleep, or the quality of your slumber is hampered in some way, you begin to suffer from something called “sleep debt”.

The debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you need to get, and the amount you actually end up with.

As your sleep deficit grows, the consequences become increasingly more alarming. Often, problems begin with things like daytime confusion and foggy thinking.

You’ll have impaired attention spans, a weakened immune system, mood instability, accelerated ageing and compromised memory.

Eventually, you can even end up with an increased risk of serious chronic conditions, like heart disease or diabetes. Your sleep debt is more troublesome than you can imagine.

Every day sleep deprived individuals struggle with negative moods and impaired cognitive performance. Scientists are even beginning to conduct studies to determine whether it’s possible to die from lack of sleep.

Research into animals has proven that it could be a very real issue in the long-term. Although, most people will fall asleep naturally before anything too drastic happened to them.

Can you recover from sleep deprivation?

So, how do you compensate for lack of sleep?

It is possible.

However, you first need to calculate how much sleep debt you’re dealing with.

Start by figuring out how much sleep you need each night to feel rested and alert. After this subtract the number of hours you actually get from the sleep you need.

For instance, let’s say you need eight hours a night, but you only get seven. You’re losing a total of 364 hours of sleep over the course of the year.

Unfortunately, simply sleeping for several weeks straight isn’t enough to recover from sleep deprivation.

Repaying your sleep debt has more to do with good sleep hygiene than getting as many hours of extra sleep as you can.

Research into how to recover from sleep deprivation indicates that sleeping more for a night or two is beneficial. It can assist in getting rid of some of the symptoms of sleep deprivation, like confusion and exhaustion.

However, an extra few hours in bed on a weekend isn’t going to repay hundreds of hours of debt.

Sleeping more on certain days of the week can be problematic, because it gets you out of a routine. Your body needs to stick to the same consistent routine to obtain a circadian rhythm.

If you can maintain a consistent cycle, then your brain will naturally begin to make the most out of the sleep that you do get.

When sleep deprived individuals go to bed, the body works to make up some of your lost sleep. The body tries to help you by spending more time in the deeper and restorative stages of sleep.

In other words, even if you’re sleeping the same number of hours, you may be getting the extra rest you need just by sticking to your schedule.

How do you compensate for lack of sleep?

So, how do you actually get out of sleep debt, and stay there?

Well, the first thing you need to know is that recovering from sleep deprivation isn’t something that takes a day or two.

Depending on how severe your deficit is, it’s going to take several days, or even weeks, before you notice a difference.

According to the Stanford Sleep Medical Centre, if you go to bed late for five nights in a row, it’s going to take more than five nights of regular sleeping to get you back on track.

The complexity of sleep debt means that the best way to recover from sleep deprivation is to stop adding to your debt in the first place.

Make sure that you don’t have to worry about lost sleep by ensuring that you get the same adequate amount of slumber every night.

If you’re not sure how much rest you actually need, try keeping a sleep journal to track your requirements.

Once you determine how much rest you need each night, a series of sold sleep hygiene habits could help to keep your routine running smoothly.

For instance, make sure you have a consistent time when you wake up and go to sleep each day.

Additionally, turn off the TV about one hour before bed, so that you have time to wind down. Aim to get into bed early enough, and maybe try some meditation before falling asleep.

Other ways to prepare your schedule for better sleep include:

  • Keeping electronics out of your bedroom;
  • Maintaining a comfortable, cool, and dark sleeping space;
  • Going to bed when you’re tired, and avoiding using too many stimulants;
  • Have a routine to help you relax before bed;
  • Consider natural solutions like teas and supplements to help you rest.

How long does it take to recover from sleep deprivation?

The most common question to follow “How can I recover from lack of sleep?” is how long it will take to feel better after you’ve been sleep deprived.

Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to that query.

Many people think of their sleep like a bank account. They assume that if they withdraw an hour on Monday to watch a new show, they can deposit an extra hour on the weekend, and they’ll be back to normal.

However, it’s more like you’re loaning time from your sleep needs, which means that when you pay it back, there’s interest to consider too.

The interest rates on sleep debt are steep too.

Research indicates that people actually need around four days of rest to make up for a single hour of sleep debt. Since many people get less sleep than they need frequently, it’s practically impossible to make up for your debt on weekends alone.

If you’re exhausted every week by the time Saturday rolls around, you might be able to recover from sleep deprivation faster by choosing a mid-afternoon nap rather than oversleeping.

Light exposure in the morning is also crucial for keeping your biological rhythms in check.

If you need extra hours in bed, exposing yourself to the light on the morning, and getting some extra hours early in the evening, could be a lot better for you. You could also opt for a nap in the afternoon.

Not only do naps feel great, but research has linked napping to a host of benefits too, including better memory focus, improved creativity, and more.

Just try to avoid napping for too long. Twenty minutes should be more than enough to make you feel refreshed again. Additionally, avoid sleeping too close to your regular bedtime.

Taking a nap a couple of hours before you’re due to go to bed could wake you up enough that it’s hard to snooze when you really want to.

Tips for recovering from sleep deprivation

Ultimately, figuring how to recover from sleep deprivation isn’t as simple as it seems.

It’s not as easy as getting a couple of extra hours in bed on a weekend because you stayed up late to work on a project during the week. If you want to recover from sleep deprivation, the first thing you need to do is change the way that you think about sleep.

Stop looking at sleep as a luxury or something that you can indulge in when you have the time. Good sleeping habits are critical to your health.

If you want to overcome your sleep problems:

Create a schedule
Make sure that you know what time you’re going to go to bed and wake up each day. When you wake up, get plenty of natural sunlight to support your circadian rhythms.

When you go to bed, have a meditation or relaxation strategy in place to encourage faster slumber.

Understand the underlying issues
If you want to overcome sleep deprivation, you need to know what’s causing it. Maybe you’re struggling with anxiety when you go to bed, or nightmares plague you. If you know the cause of your deprivation, you can seek medical and professional help to deal with it.

Exercise more
Exercise is something that we should all be getting more of. Regular exercise during the day can help to get your body into better shape and encourage a higher quality of sleep when you go to bed each night.

Get help
Sometimes there’s an underlying reason for your sleep deprivation that needs to be addressed by a specialist. If you consistently suffer from bad sleep, speaking to a doctor will help you to determine if you’re dealing with problems like sleep apnea.

Have patience
Most of us are already chronically sleep-deprived. That means that it’s unlikely that we’re going to be able to recover from sleep deprivation in a couple of days. It will take time and persistence for you to feel your best.

Get help to recover from sleep deprivation

According to experts, American adults lose around 11 days a year to insomnia. Additionally, many people in the Western world go to work too tired to focus each day.

Everywhere, sleep-deprived individuals are struggling to accomplish their goals in life, because they don’t have the focus they need or the brainpower to get work done.

There are even people out there who are more likely to suffer from sleep disorders, because of issues like shift work or regular travel.

If you’re ready to learn how to recover from sleep deprivation for yourself, then you can continue to read through some of the other guides that we have here at Siestio.

However, remember that if your sleep problem is severe, or you’ve been dealing with it for some time now, the best thing you can do is seek help.

A medical professional can use tools like sleep studies to determine what’s causing the root issue behind your sleep deprivation.

Siestio. Sleep Matters.

General advice disclaimer
This article contains general tips and advice. However, no diet or exercise program should be started without consulting your physician or other industry professional first. For more information read our full disclaimer here.

Medical Expert

Siestio is an evidence-based resource dedicated to sleep and wellbeing. Whether you’re affected directly or indirectly by sleep issues, we’re here to help. Because we believe sleep matters.

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