Can you erase your 2013 sleep debt?

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Can sleeping in this holiday help to catch up on sleep missed during the year?


There are many that push through this tough time of year, sacrificing many hours of sleep, to close that deal, sign off on that job or clear that inbox before heading off on leave. 'Finish strong' is a philosophy in our home that promotes the idea of pushing through, doing your best, giving your all. Holidays feel like a reward and there is nothing worse than knowing there is some unfinished business that will interrupt your hard-earned vacation.

The temptation is to work now, sleep later as surely once on holiday, one can catch up on sleep. However, sacrificing sleep to get through your to do list may not be the wisest option. Accruing a sleep debt often leads to making costly mistakes (that require more time to fix); rash decisions (that have long-lasting consequences) and falling ill once on vacation (thanks to a compromised immune system). Worse still, are those who use this philosophy year round – they push through fatigue during the week and sleep in on weekends to try and rest up and create a ‘sleep reserve’ for the week ahead.

Unfortunately, our bodies are not designed to store sleep. We need regular periods of rest to recharge for periods of hard slog. Sleep accrued tonight, will benefit you tomorrow but sleep poorly Monday to Friday and you will not be able to catch up enough sleep on the weekend to be fully recharged come Monday morning.


So can sleeping in this holiday help to catch up on sleep missed during the year? No, unfortunately not. But here are some alternate strategies to help squash your sleep debt.

1. Budget sleep wisely - when its time to work, work hard and when it is time to rest, sleep hard. It takes discipline to switch off your PC, smart phone or iPad but the extra sleep will make you better able to process information, problem solve and handle conflict situations at work.

2. Early to bed, early to rise
- if pressed, rather go to sleep now (say at 9pm) and set your alarm to wake up early (say at 4.30am). This way you still get your 7.5 hours but when you start working at 4.30am, despite feeling groggy initially, you will be well rested and able to work smarter. You will also feel more pressed for time knowing that you need to leave the house by 7am which will force you to focus on the task at hand - rather than making another cup of coffee or tweeting about how late you are working.

3. Take naps - remember the great benefits of even a 10 minute nap? Check out the blog The Best Kind of Nap to conquer this under-rated skill.

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