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Catching Up on Lost Sleep: Is It Really Possible?

You have probably been there – a night when you didn't manage to get much sleep and go about your day feeling tired until you go back to sleep. Or a night out on on a weekend leaving you feeling low on energy on Monday. Even working shifts can be the cause of too little sleep. Therefore, you've probably asked yourself at some point: Is it possible to catch up on missed sleep? And how does a lack of sleep affect your physical health?

What happens if you don't get enough sleep?

In the Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe conducted in 2011/2012,  more than 54,700 respondents aged 50 and older from 16 countries were asked whether they had been bothered by sleep problems for at least 6 months. The study showed, that prevalence rates varied from 16.6 % in Denmark and Italy to 31.2 % in Poland, and even confirmed a higher likelihood of sleeping problems in women. In more recent surveys by the German opinion research institute Emnid, results show that around 80 % of German employees feel like they sleep too little.

Yet a sufficient amount of sleep is essential for our health. It is not for nothing that so many teams of sleep researchers all over the world are conducting various studies on the subject of sleep and health: restful sleep is equally important for our body and our health. Dr Epameinondas Fountas and his team of experts have analysed a large number of studies with a total of more than one million participants. The sleep researcher's findings show that a lack of sleep increases the risk of various illnesses.

Some of the consequences are:

  • Decline in cognitive performance: we are less concentrated, have difficulty focusing during the day and our ability to react decreases. Memory deteriorates and the error rate for tasks increases significantly, making it more difficult to cope with everyday life, work, and to navigate road traffic, for example.
  • Weakening of the immune system: A lack of sleep means that our body has less time to regenerate and build up defences. This in turn makes us more susceptible to diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
  • Risk of cardiovascular disease increases: A chronic lack of sleep increases the risk of various heart diseases. In a study, the Spanish Centre for Cardiovascular Research found that a sleep duration of less than six hours increases the risk of atherosclerosis in test subjects by 27 percent. This disease can lead to blockage of the veins and, in the worst case, trigger heart failure, a stroke, or an aneurysm. The big problem: too little sleep can still have consequences decades later, as scientists from the University of Gothenburg have discovered in a study. The participants of the study were men who slept five hours or less. The result: in an examination 20 years later, they were twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack compared to the reference group. The latter, however, slept seven to eight hours a day. The result is particularly worrying, as this risk is roughly on par with the consequences of smoking or type 2 diabetes.
  • Mood swings: In addition to our physical health, a lack of sleep also affects our mental state. People who sleep too little are often irritable or confused and have a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders.

A good night's sleep not only helps us to be physically healthy but also has many psychological benefits: sufficient, restful sleep is the foundation for feeling energised and well rested in everyday life as well as a balanced mind.

Is it possible to catch up on sleep?

Whether it's because of a stressful everyday life, emotional strain, or a nice leisure activity in the evening – sometimes we don't get enough sleep in one night. But can you catch up on the sleep you missed? We'll say it straight away: the answer is yes – at least in the short term.

For example, if stress or other factors cause you to sleep less than usual during the week, you can make up for it by getting a few extra hours of sleep during the weekend. This will help you to feel more rested and recharge your batteries.

Can I catch up on too little sleep with an afternoon nap?

There are also short-term solutions to compensate for a sleep deficit. An afternoon nap in the form of a so-called power nap can work wonders. With a brief daytime nap, you can not only recover during your workday, but you're also improving your health and general well-being at the same time.

Power nap: why it's so beneficial

A power nap of 10 to 20 minutes can increase our concentration and productivity as it revitalises the brain. Our memory improves and we are more effective at memorising new information. Our body also recovers during this time. Our blood pressure drops, our heart rate slows down and our muscles relax. This allows us to reduce stress, strengthen our immune system, and improve our mood.

In the long term, the benefits can help to lower the risk of burnout and heart disease. It is therefore not surprising that a short midday nap is an integral part of the working day in some countries. Some office buildings even have rooms specifically designed for power naps.

With a weighted duvet or weighted blanket from CURA, suiting your height, sleeping habits, and weight, you can further improve the quality of your daytime nap. Both weighted duvets in bed and weighted blankets, which are ideal for use on the sofa, can be used to support your power nap. The special thing about CURA duvets: CURA maintains a constant exchange with customers to make sure products are continuously being optimised to meet customers' needs. Benefit from CURA's many years of experience and expertise with weighted duvets and blankets as well as sleep health.

What to consider when taking a daytime nap

While a short nap can be very beneficial, you should be careful not to extend it too much. After a certain point, your body slowly starts to drift into deep sleep - which can lead to you feeling even more tired and drained afterwards.

Therefore, people who suffer from sleep disorders should try to maintain their usual sleep rhythm and not attempt to catch up on sleep. Otherwise, the quality of sleep could deteriorate further and lead to an even greater imbalance. In such cases, it is advisable to seek professional help and specifically address individual needs and the underlying causes.

Do you need to catch up on sleep?

In principle, of course, you should make sure you get enough sleep every night. However, if you don't manage to do so every once in a while, it doesn't pose a major problem. In such cases, it is not necessary to catch up on sleep. However, if you regularly sleep too little, you will need to be prepared for a longer recovery period overall. It is therefore better if you avoid major sleep deficits and stick to your sleep routine as consistently as possible.

A regular sleep rhythm is important for your health and overall well-being!

If you keep a consistent sleeping schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, you train your body to get used to a certain rhythm. This will make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. This also applies to weekends: You should aim to maintain your usual sleep routine wherever possible, rather than largely disrupting it.

Everyone has different needs when it comes to the optimal amount of sleep. While some get by on seven hours of sleep, others need eight hours to feel rested and energised the next day. Try to identify your optimal sleep duration on holiday, for example, by always going to bed at the same time and letting yourself wake up naturally without an alarm clock. Even if the duration fluctuates at the beginning, it will stabilise after a few days or weeks.

People who work a rotating shift schedule particularly benefit from knowing their individual sleep requirements. After all, due to the constantly changing shifts, they also need to constantly adjust their sleep rhythm. So if they know how much sleep they need, they can at least adhere to the sleep duration they need to feel as well-rested as possible. Improving the quality of sleep also helps to ensure healthier sleep:

  • Ensure good sleep hygiene: darken the room with curtains or shutters, ensure a comfortable bedroom temperature and a quiet environment. If you work the night shift and sleep during the day, you might want to switch off your doorbell and phone so that you can sleep without being disturbed.
  • Use a weighted duvet: A weighted duvet or weighted blanket can significantly improve the quality of your sleep. Its gentle pressure causes our body to release so-called feel-good hormones, helping us to relax more easily and sleep better.
  • Avoid stimulants: To facilitate healthy sleep, you should avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol during the day. These can interfere with your sleep rhythm and lead to restless nights.
  • Relaxation before going to bed: If you actively relax before going to bed, you will automatically sleep more restfully. Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, listening to music, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation can help you to unwind from everyday life's stress. Read some of our tips for unwinding in the evening.

How to avoid having to catch up on sleep thanks to a customised sleep routine

Healthy sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. It helps to recharge us from the day, lift our mood, and prevent illness. Irregular working hours, rotating shifts, or other circumstances can cause difficultly for many people to follow a consistent sleep routine. The result: lack of sleep.

One way to counteract this is to catch up on sleep, for example in the form of a short daytime nap. This applies at least to a short-term sleep deficit. In the long term, only a regular sleep rhythm and adherence to your individual sleep duration will really help. Improve the quality of your sleep and grant yourself enough time to rest. This is the only way to facilitate productivity and ensure that you stay healthy.

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