Can You Really Catch Up On Sleep?

It is possible to catch up on lost sleep. However, it is not as easy as it sounds. It takes time and effort to get back to your healthy sleep schedule.

An adult requires at least 7 hours to catch enough sleep. Anything short of that will lead to sleep deprivation that will affect your wellbeing.

Most people do not prioritize sleep. They tend to steal sleep time watching a movie or scrolling through their social media feed. They then try to make up for the sleep debt on weekends.

catch enough sleep

It is possible to catch up on sleep. But it is hard.

What Happens When You do not Have Enough Sleep?

Sleep Deprivation

Burning the midnight oil or waking up earlier than usual may not seem like a big deal. However, it may not only result in fatigue but may also affect your body and mind.

Sleep Deprivation

When you have enough sleep, you successfully move through four stages of sleep. The stages of sleep include three non- Random eye movement stages and one Random eye movement stage. The deep sleep stage is necessary. It is the stage responsible for one feeling fully rested when you wake up in the morning.

Having at least 7 hours of sleep time ensures quality sleep. It also guarantees you successfully go through all the stages of sleep. Doing this will restore both the brain and the body.

Sleep deprivation harmful to your body. It may cause heart problems, obesity, weight gain, or high blood pressure.

Circadian Rhythm

The circadian rhythm is an internal clock that controls body functions. It determines when you should go to be and when you should wake up.  Darkness and light exposure triggers the sleep-wake rhythm.

Circadian Rhythm sleep time

Maintaining a consistent sleep routine can make the circadian rhythm reliable. Moving your sleep time by an hour or two will shift the circadian rhythm. This shift makes it harder for you to sleep earlier when you need to.

Circadian disruption leads to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation could lead to chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes. It disrupts the level of hormones in the body. It also spikes up the sugar levels.

Sleep Debt

Sleep debt is the difference between the sleep you are getting and the recommended amount of sleep you should be getting. If you sleep for six hours instead of seven, you have a sleep debt of an hour each day.

Sleep Debt

There are no conclusions on whether sleep is a measurable phenomenon or not. Research shows that accumulated sleep debt affects daytime sleepiness. It also shows that moderate sleep deprivation is harmful to the body.  Results showed that a sleep debt of an hour each day for ten days is equal to one deprived of sleep for 24 hours.

Can You Catch Up on Sleep?

Sleep experts emphasize the importance of sticking to your sleep routine. A consistent sleep schedule will help keep your circadian rhythm in check. It will result in quality sleep at night.

A study was conducted in Sweden to confirm whether sleeping in the weekend can make up for lost sleep during the weekdays. They collected data after the survey. A total of thirty-eight thousand people participated in the survey. They answered questions about their weekday and weekend sleep duration, lifestyle, and medical history.

Can You Catch Up on Sleep

The data collected was analyzed for 13 years. They concluded that people with sleep debt had a 65% higher mortality rate compared to those who had enough sleep. The results showed that those who made up for lost sleep at the weekend were not affected.

The researcher gave a disclaimer that the research may be speculative. It was self-reported data. The results clearly show that you can catch up on sleep.

A different study draws the same conclusion that it is possible to pay your sleep debt. The study involved 171 healthy adults between the ages of 22-45 years. The experimental study took 12 days to complete.

In the study, they test for sleepiness and alertness. The test took place after five consecutive days of sleep debt. The person was allowed one night of recovery sleeping.

The subjects showed improvement in mental function after a maximum of 10 hours of sleep. However, it did not match when they had enough sleep. It shows that it can be hard to pay your sleep debt. It is easier to stick to your sleep pattern.

Sleep debt messes up the circadian wake-sleep rhythm. When this happens, the body is not able to produce Melatonin on time. It makes it hard to go back to your usual sleep schedule.

Why it is Difficult to Catch Up on Lost Sleep

Difficult to Catch Up on Lost Sleep

  • The average number of hours we sleep may result in the recommended 7 hours each night. Averaging your sleep hours can hide your sleep debt.
  • An hour of recovery sleep does not pay hour by hour of more than 12 hours of sleep lost during a workweek.
  • Sleep-debt increases energy intake that leads to weight gain.  Recovery sleep does not prevent a burst in energy intake.
  • It does not prevent weight gain. Sleep deprivation leads to increased food intake.
  • It is the price you have to pay for lost sleep.
  • Lack of enough sleep is harmful to the body. It leads to diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, and high blood pressure.
  • Studies show that recovery sleep can undo short term effects of sleep deprivation. However, it does not undo these effects of sleep deprivation.
  • Research shows that you may need four days of sufficient rest to recover from a sleep debt of one hour.

How to Make up for Lost Sleep

Make up for Lost Sleep

Researchers insist that there are no short term fixes for long periods of lost sleep.  Sleep debt is not paid on an hour by hour basis. Even though one can make up for lost sleep, you still have to carry the cost that comes with sleep debt.

The following are ways you can catch up sleep:

Sleep Schedule

Sleep Schedule

Try to get back to your normal sleep and wake up time. It will help boost your circadian rhythm. The right rhythm will allow the body to release Melatonin at the right time. You can go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual to allow your body to adjust.


Exercise for sleep

Exercise plays a huge role in getting quality sleep. Studies show how moderate exercise helps you get slow-wave sleep. The deep sleep stage helps one feel refreshed after waking up. Working out can help stabilize your moods that will come in handy in falling asleep quickly.

Read more, 8 Creative Ways to Fall Asleep Faster


Diet for better sleep

A good diet for sleep is also good for your health. A balances diet that Is low in fiber and saturated fats will help you fall asleep faster.

On the other hand, taking food high in sugar may make it harder to fall asleep. It may also cause you to wake up frequently during sleep. You can stay away from stimulants like caffeine and cigarettes.

Take a Nap

Nap before bedtime

Your work schedule may not allow you to get enough sleep. Taking short power naps in the early part of the day can help a lot. It'll be easy to pull off since you have built up your sleep debt. It is important to note that taking a nap a few hours before bedtime will mess up your sleep.

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene involves the environment and habits that will promote sleep. Sleep hygiene includes having a consistent routine before sleeping, relaxing your brain by avoiding brain stimulation, dimming the lights, and eating dinner at the right time.

Sleep Hygiene

You can create a comfortable environment to sleep by getting comfortable beddings, blocking off the noise, blocking out light, and setting up the right temperature.

Making up for lost sleep is a lot of work. You will need a lot of time to go back to your usual sleep patterns.


Any form of sleep deprivation is harmful to the body. Even though it is possible to make up for lost sleep, you will have to bear the consequences of sleep deprivation. Apart from that, you will need four days to recover from a sleep debt of just one hour. It means that you will need more time to recover from a sleep debt accumulated throughout the week.

Short term fixes for lost sleep do not exist. The consequences of accumulated sleep debt are similar to sleep deprivation. Sleep debt affects the functioning of the brain. It affects your concentration, focus, and judgment.

Apart from that, you may also experience obesity and heart problems.

In a nutshell, please stick to your sleep schedule and do not compromise your quality of sleep. The sacrifice involved in making up for lost sleep is not one worth bearing.

You might be interested in this, 10+ Helpful Tips: How to Reset Sleep Schedule.

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