There’s two times of the year that students dread the most: the start of the school year in September and the return to school after the holiday break in January. Both the Summer and Winter break are the longest stretch of time students get off from the day-to-day lifestyle of studying, doing assignments and attending class, or at least trying to attend class.
While the holidays may seem like a time of rest and relaxation, are we really catching up on sleep at all?
The average adult should get about seven to nine hours of sleep a night, work or no work. However, it’s becoming rare anyone gets the same consistent sleep on a nightly basis, so we use the holidays to catch up on that missed sleep. But there are issues that arise from this, because while we might think we are catching up on our lost sleep, we really aren’t.
For one, the holidays may actually make you want so sleep more. Which is great, but your body and mind will be telling you to sleep at the wrong time of the day. Some of you may have noticed over the break when you are just sitting around at home or on vacation relaxing by the ocean or pool, you begin to feel tired.
According to an article titled Why holidays can make you more sleepy, you’re still in catch-up sleep phase early in the break. It’s sort of like a wake-up call for how much sleep we are lacking, the article suggests. Professor Dorothy Bruck of Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia mentions that sleep is as important as healthy food and exercise in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Here you are falling asleep during the day. Keep in mind if you suffer from insomnia — which could mean having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep— afternoon naps aren’t recommended, according to a CBS News article Can you really ‘catch up on sleep’ over weekends or vacation.
A midday nap can give you a new boost to the day, but you should keep the naps limited to 15-20 minutes of sleep, the lighter stages of your sleep according to the article. According to Bruck, any longer amount of daytime sleep can affect your “drive” to sleep during the night.
The article also mentions that alcohol and stomach soreness can also affect your sleep at night. Especially during the holiday season when drinking may increase in frequency.
However, it depends on how many drinks you have prior to bed. The article mentions a couple drinks will only affect you minimally, but the more drinks the worse sleep you have. The term used in the article is ‘binge drinking’, which is about five or more drinks in one night, and this can affect your sleep for up to a week.
“[The alcohol] might help you go to sleep and for the first half of the night, your sleep can be dead to the world. But the second half of the night, [sleep] is much more fragmented,” Bruck told ABC.
Stomach soreness comes with how much food we consume during the holidays. A feast during the day can cause us to take a daytime nap, affecting night sleep. However, having a feast before bed can also make you feel uncomfortable.
Even if you avoid alcohol, lots of food and naps during the day, you still aren’t guaranteed to catch up on sleep. In an interview with CBS News, Dr. Michael Grosso said, “yes, you can catch up on lost sleep, but making up for it depends on just how sleep-deprived you are”.
Simply put, to catch-up on sleep one must sleep an hour for every hour lost. For example, say you lost out on five hours of sleep during the course of Monday to Friday. You must sleep that extra five hours in order to catch-up. Scientific American reported that you can’t catch up all at once. Instead, you have to add an hour or so of extra sleep each night “As you erase sleep debt, your body will come to rest at a sleep pattern that is specifically right for you,” says the magazine. Eventually, your body will figure out what amount of sleep works for you and wake you up when you’re ready.
Realistically the average working person and student probably lost an excessive amount of sleep from the beginning of September to the start of December. Instead of trying to catch up, your plans for 2017 should be to find the amount of sleep that works for you.
So, here we are, back to work and school. Mentally we feel refreshed from spending time with family and getting away from what makes us stressed. Unfortunately, we are most likely still sleep-deprived. So, this New Year, it might be a good idea to add ‘a consistent sleep schedule’ to your resolutions.