Ask SleepBetter: Catching Up On Sleep

Have you wondered about something related to sleep, but just can’t find the answer?  Lots of people do, and that’s why we created Ask SleepBetter.  You can ask your own question on the SleepBetter Facebook Page, or by using our Ask SleepBetter contact form.  We will try to answer as many questions as possible, but we are not able to answer queries about physical issues or medicinal issues.  Those should be addressed face-to-face with a physician.

Today’s question is about catching up on sleep:

“A friend of mine has a really hard time getting caught up on sleep.. she feels tired all the time. Is there any product or ideas that you can use to help you get caught up on sleep, when you feel tired all the time”

-Donna Yost (via Facebook)

The first thing your friend should do is try to figure out why she isn’t sleeping well.  A visit to her doctor is a good start, as there are physical problems that can cause sleeplessness.  The general physician may then refer her to a sleep specialist, if he or she suspects a sleep disorder.

It’s very difficult to “catch up” on sleep.  When you take the amount of sleep you should get, and subtract the amount you actually get, you find the amount of sleep debt you have accrued.  Unfortunately, the effects of sleep debt a far reaching and hard to overcome.  It takes dedication, in fact.  Here’s what we wrote about a sleep debt study that was conducted back in 2010.  Study participants were subjected to sleep deprivation, and then given one night of recovery sleep.

The scientists found that the participants neurobehavioral functions improved after the recovery night, but lapses of attention, sleepiness (as reported by subjects), reaction times and fatigue scores all remained higher than initial levels.

Clearly, one night won’t do it.  Many nights of getting more sleep than necessary is in order to repay that debt.  In some cases, it may require a real lifestyle change.  Your friend can learn more by reading an Ask SleepBetter article published last year that focuses on repaying sleep debt.

Beyond visiting a physician and working on sleep debt, your friend should certainly look at her sleep environment to try to discover the cause of her sleeplessness.  She should ask herself the following questions:

  • Is it too noisy in my bedroom?  A white noise machine can help drown out unwanted sounds.
  • Is my bedding too old?  Pillows that are more than 18 months old, for instance, lose their support and should be replaced.
  • Is my bedding appropriate for my sleeping style?  Side sleepers, for instance, require a higher “loft” pillow that provides support to the head and neck.
  • Is my significant other keeping me up at night?  Snoring and movements in bed can be a big problem for some bed partners.  As unromantic as it sounds, many couples have found that they sleep much better in separate beds.
  • Are pets causing problems for my sleep?  As much as you may love Fido or Fluffy, their nighttime movements and even pet allergies can cause sleeplessness for the “master” in the relationship.

Those are just a few things that could be causing sleeplessness over time.  We hope your friend and her medical professionals can find the solution.

Do you have a question for Ask SleepBetter?
You can send us a note through our contact form,
or simply post it on the SleepBetter Facebook Page.