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How Do You Catch Up On Lost Sleep/Sleep Debt

by Anthony
(Sydney, NSW, Australia)

Hi, I would like to understand how we can catch up on sleep/sleep debt in situations where we have had poor sleep for several nights.

For example, the last 4 nights I have only had 3-4 hours of sleep. As a result I feel heavily fatigued and also got sick somehow, just a general cold which probably came from someone else.

Any advice would be great! I found a link to your page which explains sleep debt but nothing was there to explain how to fix it.

Kevin: Hey Anthony, thanks for your question. Paying back your sleep debt is incredibly simple--you just sleep more. For example, if you have a sleep need of around 8 hours per night, sleeping 4 hours for 4 nights will give you a sleep debt of around 16 hours. To lower this sleep debt, sleep more than 8 hours in a day. For instance, sleeping 10 hours one night will lower your sleep debt around 2 hours.

Presenting the numbers like this is a bit of a simplification, but the mental model it provides is very useful for achieving the amount of sleep on a consistent basis that will keep you feeling healthy and alert.


(Please keep in mind that I am a student of sleep science and not a medical doctor. Please take any thoughts I give with my background in mind.)

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Aug 26, 2018
Sleep Debt Is Absurd NEW
by: junemoonchild

We talk here on this subject, sleep debt, as if we need to be reminded that our bodies are well-built and self-tuned "machines" that take pretty good care of themselves, granted more with certain functions than others. Your body will naturally get the sleep it requires by, first and foremost, sending cues like you're simply feeling tired, perhaps yawning, or like most people on a regular schedule, it's time for bed! After that, if you have ignored the signs or just had to stay awake to complete a job, your body will fall asleep on its own, likely when you may not be expecting it, hopefully not behind the wheel of a car. Some Eastern people claim that 2-3 hours of sleep a night is sufficient enough and that Western man got used to "8 hours" of sleep way back when the work day came into existence. It is just not true that you need a specific amount of time, and worse, that if you don't get it, then you are screwed and owe some ridiculous "sleep debt". Why not an "eating debt" for those who skipped a few breakfasts last week, just because we are told we must eat 3 meals a day or we are not eating right? All your worrying is the root cause of your not feeling well after missing some sleep (which you actually never missed), along with this idea of "sleep debt" that serves only to make you feel worse. May I suggest just relaxing, stop worrying about it, get back into your regular routine if necessary, and let your body do the rest of the work it is guaranteed naturally to do for you.

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