Home / Blog November 23, 2023 Updated on January 04, 2024

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Sleep Deprived? Here’s How To Catch Up On Sleep

Can you catch up on lost sleep? The simple answer is yes, but catching up on a missed night of sleep isn’t quite the same as getting the sleep you need in the first place. Keep on reading to learn about how your body can recuperate from sleep debt.

How To Catch Up On Sleep


Sleep debt accumulates when you consistently don’t get enough sleep. While you can “repay” sleep debt, fully catching up on lost sleep is challenging because of its effects on physical and mental health.

Chronic sleep deprivation has immediate consequences like daytime sleepiness and reduced focus; long-term effects include an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions.

Repaying sleep debt requires consistent effort, like establishing a regular sleep schedule, practicing good sleep hygiene, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and considering short naps to mitigate the negative effects. 

Did you know?
Sleep deprivation disrupts the balance of hormones that regulate hunger, making it harder to resist unhealthy food choices.

Many of us accumulate sleep debt on a regular basis. Can you truly catch up on lost sleep, and if so, how do you catch up on sleep deprivation? Let’s delve into the science of sleep debt, explore its effects on our health, and uncover strategies to reclaim the restorative power of sleep

What Is Sleep Debt?

The amount of time you sleep is like putting money in a bank account: whenever you don’t get enough of your precious hours of rest, the deposit is withdrawn and has to be repaid. If you’re in chronic sleep debt, it becomes incredibly hard to catch up.

Sleep debt, also known as sleep deficit or sleep deprivation, occurs when you consistently fail to get enough sleep. You can have sleep debt from pulling all-nighters, or staying up late and waking up early; you can also have sleep debt if you don’t know your sleep needs, as you might need more sleep than you think.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not possible to fully catch up on lost sleep. It is true that you can repay a portion of your sleep debt by catching up on sleep on the weekend.
However, the long-term effects of chronic sleep deprivation can't be entirely compensated for by a few extra hours of rest.

Another point to keep in mind is that if you sleep too long on the weekends, it can be difficult for your body to adjust, and get to bed on time on Sunday night, which could result in the deficit continuing into the next week.

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Sleep Debt Effects

Sleep debt has far-reaching consequences for both physical and mental health. Here are some of the significant consequences of sleep debt:

Daytime Sleepiness

A lack of adequate sleep can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and impaired concentration. This increases the risk of accidents and injuries.

Irritability and Mood Disturbances

Sleep debt often results in irritability, mood swings, and increased stress levels. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to difficulty in regulating our emotions, making it harder to cope with stress,maintain healthy relationships, as well as contribute to anxiety and depression.

Cognitive Impairment

Sleep plays a crucial role in memory consolidation and learning. Sleep debt impairs these cognitive processes, affecting decision-making, problem-solving, and creativity.

Research shows that if you go about 20 hours without sleep, you will suffer the same cognitive impairment as if you had a blood alcohol level of 0.1% – over the legal limit for driving in every state.

Weakened Immune System:

Chronic sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and illnesses. It impairs the body’s ability to fight off viruses and bacteria, leading to more frequent illnesses.

Metabolic Dysregulation

Sleep debt is associated with disruptions in hormones that regulate hunger and appetite, leading to increased cravings for high-calorie, sugary foods. This can contribute to weight gain and obesity

Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases

Long-term sleep debt is linked to a higher risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, or hypertension.

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How To Catch Up On Sleep

Paying back sleep debt is like paying back credit card debt: try to pay as much of the total balance as you can, so that the debt doesn't accumulate interest.

While it is possible to repay your sleep debt, it does not happen overnight. Incorporating better sleep habits can gradually mitigate the negative effects of sleep debt and improve your overall sleep quality over time.

Here are some tips on how to make up for lost sleep:

Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule

It is important to stick to a regular sleep schedule that follows your natural circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is our internal clock and it affects bodily functions such as temperature regulation, hormone control, memory, focus, and of course, sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps regulate your body's internal clock, enhancing the quality of your sleep.

Prioritize Sleep Hygiene

Create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal your body that it's time to wind down. If you engage in calming activities like reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing mindfulness meditation, your body will relax and ready itself for sleep.

Remember to reduce your screen time before bedtime, as exposure to electronic devices a few hours before you go to sleep can be detrimental to your rest. The blue light emitted from screens can interfere with your circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep.

Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment

The more welcoming your bedroom is at night, the more receptive your body will be to getting deeply r restorative rest. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet to help you sleep comfortably.

If you still have issues falling asleep despite making some of these changes, consider investing in a natural sleep aid like a weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets deliver Deep Touch Pressure (DTP) over your body which stimulates the production of serotonin, and aids naturally deeper sleep cycles. The even weight distribution of our Cotton Napper weighted blanket is thoughtfully designed to cue a comforting feeling to help you fall asleep effortlessly and stay asleep for longer.

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Can You Catch Up On Sleep By Napping?

If you haven’t been sleeping enough, try taking short naps (around 20-30 minutes) to help alleviate daytime sleepiness without disrupting your nighttime sleep. It’s best to avoid long naps, especially in the late afternoon or evening, as this can interfere with being able to fall asleep at night.

How Long Does It Take to Catch Up On Sleep?

There is no precise formula to calculate how long it takes to catch up on sleep. The effects of sleep deprivation are complex and vary from person to person. Factors like age, overall health, and the duration of sleep debt influence how quickly your body can recover.

While consistent, extended sleep on weekends can partially reduce the impact of sleep deprivation, chronic sleep debt, especially if it has been accumulating over a long period, might require weeks of consistently prioritizing rest and healthy sleep habits.

It's essential to focus not just on catching up on sleep, but also on maintaining a regular sleep schedule and healthy sleep hygiene practices to prevent building up future sleep debt.

If sleep debt is interfering with your daytime activities, or if you struggle to fall asleep every night and constantly wake up exhausted, consider consulting a healthcare professional who can provide personalized treatment plans for individual needs.


Understanding the nuances of sleep debt is crucial in our quest for optimal health and well-being. While you can't fully compensate for lost sleep overnight, adopting healthier sleep habits and making sleep a priority in your daily life can significantly improve your overall vitality, in gradual steps.

By embracing a consistent sleep schedule, practicing good sleep hygiene, and creating a restful sleep environment, you can minimize the impact of sleep debt and experience the transformative power of restorative sleep. Remember, your health is an investment – and quality sleep is one of the most valuable assets you possess.