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Can you make up for the lack of sleep?

First part of this question is quite obvious:
- with naps or sleeping in on the weekends, can I make up some of the sleep I lack at night since most of us have those dreadful 9-5 workdays?

second part (which is harder) is if I realize I have been sleep deprived my whole life (teenage years, and early twenties) (but TONS during college years)
is it possible to make up for those damages later on or has it already set in and is going to permanently effect me?

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  • Gord G 50+

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    Aug 23 2013: If you had a good time, you weren't deprived. If the experience broadened your understanding, you weren't deprived. If you regretted it the next day, you weren't deprived.

    It seems to me, sleep is a self regulating biological imperative subjugate to individuation. In other words ... you didn't sleep because you were captivated by life.

    I think physiological deprivation only occurs when we attempt to regulate our cycles artificially. Pay the piper for your night of revelry ... and the body adjusts.

    ...or maybe I'm rationalizing my college years. ;-)
    • Aug 26 2013: ..it would be a self-regulating biological imperative if we did not have lightbulbs, TV, coffe, 'keep-awake pills' etc..........
      • Aug 26 2013: True Christina. That's what I meant by pay the piper. The body will adjust naturally if we don't artificially force ourselves to stay awake the next day to compensate for the lack of sleep.

        Modern life allows us to extend waking hours indefinitely. But our bodies have a very short tolerance for lack of sleep.

        To clarify: If the day after a late night party a person listens to their body and rests, I think there is little harm done. But I think habitual artificially induced wakefulness can cause health problems over a lifetime. The trick is knowing when to rest. And since our physiological needs vary, the best approach is paying attention to our natural rhythms.
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    Aug 14 2013: While there may be some things that you cannot somehow retrieve now from having gone through many years not as alert as you might have been, there is everything to gain from going through the rest of your life alert!
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      Aug 15 2013: That sentence made sense, but I had to read it a couple times before it did. Maybe I need more sleep.
  • Aug 19 2013: I guess Lisa, the answer depends on what you have been doing while awake.

    Russell Foster's talk was great in my opinion and he surely explained the importance of sleep very clearly so, all the things we have been doing, maybe all our lives could have been done better, may have been done differently, might not have been done at all. I wonder. So while I know you were referring or at least I thought you were referring to the self inflicted bodily damage we bring on ourselves, there is a no less serious issue of the accrued consequences of habitual sleep deprived behavior as a society.
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      Aug 19 2013: REGARDING: "... accrued consequences of habitual sleep deprived behavior as a society..."

      I agree, and your comment was well stated.
      You seemed to appreciate the importance of context,
      and you also referred to the context of society and social consequences.

      Society also plays an impacting role in reverse, upon individuals.
      Although it may not be a direct problem for everyone
      (like in quieter neighborhoods or for those who are sleep deprived for other reasons),
      the issue of Domestic Tranquility is also an important consideration.

      Again, your point about "... accrued consequences of (habit)..." was a good one.
      Sincerely,
      John "Gusty" of Houston, Texas.
  • Aug 18 2013: There is such a thing as 'sleep debt' which can, indeed, be caught up on. However, how much of this 'debt' can accumulate is something you'd need to study further. For during sleep. the brain creates serotonin, repairs cells and runs through 'system checks' of all your physiology (hence the morning stiffy guys wake up with - reproductive check).

    So, it's only logical to presume that 'too' much sleep deprivation - i.e., deprivation of the required bodily processes only accomplished during sleep - would have repercussive effects that may not be fixed by merely catching on a bit of shut-eye. For example, if you're an athletic and exercise regularly, destroying muscle cells in the process, if you do not get adequate, consistent rest, your body cannot sufficiently repair the cells you break down in your exercise routines. Thus, you'll likely get injured more easily and inevitably won't be getting the benefits of the work you're putting in. I'm sure this rule applies to any and all the other reparative process that take place during sleep.
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      Aug 19 2013: REGARDING: "...repercussive effects..." or repercussion.
      I agree, and I was thinking something similar when I first saw the question.
      Sleep is not fully understood, and there may be many subtleties that are cumulative.

      REGARDING: "...'sleep debt'..."
      I would say it might indeed be similar to a financial problem.
      One may certainly get-by rather well in poverty without being aware of opportunities missed; furthermore, it is also like not knowing that which you do not know. SLEEP POVERTY may create more chronic, long-term problems that go unnoticed. If someone suddenly wins the lottery and has a little bit extra, like maybe "catching up" on some sleep, well that still may not address some previous poor choices, persistent unhappiness, anxiety, etc. It might even make things worse.

      Of course, it may depend upon the individual. Even one individual may have multiple sleep patterns. For instance, I heard about a good one and tried it once or twice with great success. I've heard that if you are able to soundly go to bed by 8 pm, you may sleep for a couple of hours in deep sleep and then awaken to a light sleep for a couple of hours before returning to a deep sleep until morning. I think it was the best sleep I've ever had; unfortunately, it's not my regular sleep pattern. Still, I'm fortunate to not have any major (known) issues. The point of the little anecdote is that one may simply have more than one possibility -like the program modes on a camera, preset for different circumstances. On the other hand, I may not be maximizing potential benefits.

      Until research provides better insight into the mechanics and chemistry of sleep, health, the brain, etc., we will probably just have to do the best we can to achieve our best balance.
      Of course, a greater appreciation for Domestic Tranquility may also help many others as well.

      Again, you made a good point about "...repercussive effects..."
      Sincerely,
      John "Gusty" of Houston, Texas.
      • Aug 19 2013: One thing's for certain: the benefits of napping during the day are scientifically proven. Some companies even implement policies to promote employees taking afternoon naps.
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          Aug 20 2013: I do agree that naps are important, useful, and even effective to variable degrees;
          however,
          we might be careful to not ask the metaphorical kitchen knife to do the job of a screw-driver. We might end up with a dull or broken blade.

          Also, it would be kind of like giving up on food and even taste for the concentrated nutrients in a vitamin pill.
          Good sleep is something one may really savor and appreciate.

          As for "companies," they may not all be the best of role models.

          Finally, sleep itself may be more of a Right than an obligation. While we are all free to choose our own personal preference, the greater problem may be when society and even corporations and businesses make demands that would violate the domain of Domestic Tranquility -reverberating with repercussions throughout society and civilization.

          Thanks you,
          for I did enjoy pondering your important point,
          which I had previously neglected to consider.
          Sincerely,
          John “Gusty” of Houston, Texas.
  • Aug 15 2013: I'd imagine that there is little making up for what benefits you missed from lack of sleep. Part of sleeping is the increase of melatonin from the pineal that is responsible for removing free radicals, as an anti-oxidant it protects cells and mtDNA from being destroyed or altered. All of which helps prevent increased neurodegeneration levels from natural aging.

    Although, some have suggested that high and low oscillatory waves in the brain activate plasticity and in return recording and/or improving information stored in neural assemblies. Of which neurogenisis in the hippocampus allows for strengthening of pathways, even old ones if I'm not mistaken. So, you may have lost something, but you can rebuild.
    There's a chance you've increased the odds of experiencing health issues stemming from a lifetime of being sleep deprived of which I don't believe can be reversed with sleep. But I could be wrong.
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    Aug 14 2013: I am the queen of naps. I also get eight hours of sleep. I really, really, really like sleep.

    To answer your question, I believe that being asleep through several sleep cycles is key, meaning being asleep for an extended period is preferable. I don't think you can take a bunch of cat naps and still have the same quality of rest as a nice long night of slumber...

    Secondly, you can always make up for it! Start now my friend!
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    Sep 5 2013: For the time ---Yes, possible. For the quality---- maybe not really if it's too late.
    We need sleep to relax and keep healthy.
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    Sep 2 2013: I try, regardless of the possibility. I think more than anything, restful sleep is require to "make-up" those lost hours. If you can get restful sleep over the course of 5 hours, that is more restorative than 8-12 hours of "restless sleep." Just from my own experience. Now, how can you get your sleep to be restful? I don't know. No medicine has been able to produce it, in my experience. I've had luck occasionally with alcohol, but not consistently, and like he said, it's not a long term solution. More than anything... I've found being satisfied with your day makes for satisfying sleep. Days when I get a lot done, where I get some exercise, and have some fun are prime examples. If I leave work unfinished, my sleep is not restful until it's concluded. Just my experience, not really anything super scientific, just my own observations. Alarm clocks are the bane of my existence.
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    Sep 2 2013: Sleep Less Live More Book

    This book was great for me. The method described to reduce the amount of sleep you need may not work for everyone, but I definitely had great results with it. For three years (until I got into my hectic college schedule) I slept exactly 5-and-a-half hours per night, by the book's method, and I had more energy and was more productive than ever. When I get back to having a normal schedule, I am going to start using this book's method again.
    Be aware however, that the change doesn't happen over night. It took me almost a year to get down from 8.5 hours of sleep to 5.5 per night. You also need to practice a pretty rigidly defined lifestyle (with a set bed-time and no snoozing the alarm clock) to have any success.

    http://www.amazon.com/Sleep-Less-Live-Everett-Mattlin/dp/0345290372
  • Sep 2 2013: What I am really curious about is what exactly happens in our cells when we sleep that is different than when we are awake. Is it that cellular respiration occurs at a different rate in our mitochondria when we are asleep? Do we truly have less energy because we have not made enough? What is going on at a cellular level?
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    Sep 2 2013: I have been a 3-hour sleeper since I was a baby! I am now 62 and still don't need a lot of sleep. I am grateful for my computers! If I miss a day (usually one or two a week, I have no problems the next day. However, after 3 days, I need to rest and, sometimes, it is hard to do. I do not sleep at night, so I sleep in the morning or early evening. Am I sleep deprived? Every now and then, yes. However, with all of this extra time, I have been able to do more, read more, see more and such than most people are able to! during my university years, I slept only 2 hours each day, 4 days each week. I survived, but I would definitely say that I was sleep deprived at that time. However, I did this for 3 years during graduate school.
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    Sep 1 2013: Hi Lisa,
    From what I've learned, it doesn't matter when we sleep (weekends, naps, etc.) and it is important to get enough sleep to support the body/mind systems. The body/mind rests, recharges and heals with sleep.

    There are several contributing factors to good health, so it may not be possible to predict if one can "make up for those damages later on". My choice is to be as healthy as possible at every stage of the life adventure.

    I don't understand how the "dreadful 9-5 workdays" interfere with sleep. There are still about 16 hours left for other activities and enough sleep....yes?

    Here is one article about sleep and health, and there is a ton of information on this topic.
    http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/important-sleep-habits
  • Aug 31 2013: i think its like you take care of your (computer) now the best you can and make wiser decisions now knowing you havent been taking care of your self like you should sooooo i would say yes you can make up for the lack of sleep depending on your circumstances
  • Aug 29 2013: Well, I often chose music to wake me up, or something really offensive :v
  • Aug 28 2013: Sleep is hard for people to comprehend as Russell states. We take it for granted because we think it can be last on the list. I agree with Russell - it can't and if it is - it comes at a cost. We need to take sleep seriously.
  • Aug 26 2013: how about starting to heed his advice preparing for a good night's sleep RIGHT NOW and keep to it?! I am quite sure that some damage can be halted and even reversed by starting the 'good sleeping habits' now, the sooner, the better. I pledge to do so myself
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    Aug 25 2013: I Am Wakeup Wen Yours ARE Sleep To Week Up Yours Mind's Touch From My Soul Wake Up Call From .. Me...
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    Aug 23 2013: One cannot make up for chronic sleep loss which seems to be your case.

    If one does an occasional all-nighter, they can make up for it on another day though.
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      Aug 24 2013: Hi Tali, could you tell me what makes you say "One cannot make up for chronic sleep loss" please?
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        Aug 31 2013: Hi John,

        That's what I have learned from reading research findings on this subject. It means that the damage has been done and you cannot fix it. Does that make sense? That is why it is so important to get enough as often as one can.
  • Aug 23 2013: The amount of sleppness is different from individual. Actually, I spend a little hour sleeping because I want to enjoy my awaken hours! To spend more time studying or meeting, chatting with my friends and family, I do not feel sleep lackness:) Something attracts me to wake, keeping me in those wonderful and exciting situations B-)
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    Aug 19 2013: Well, directly to the questions at hand...
    I would not worry about "...those damages..." from the past.
    Don't worry about that which you have no control over.
    It's like too much sun exposure, years ago as a child. Sure it may increase the chances of melanoma; however, the sunscreen we put on tomorrow won't address the problems of the past -just in the moment / future.

    As for compensating, we probably will have to live with a little uncertainty for a while because not enough is known about the mechanics and chemistry of sleep, health, the brain, etc.
    Again, we will probably just have to do the best we can to achieve our best balance.

    As for your ability to compensate with naps, I do not know. I am not an expert, and also every person is different.
    Sorry that I could not be more helpful; however, other contributors may know better than I.

    Thank you for asking a thought-provoking question.
    Sincerely,
    John "Gusty" of Houston, Texas.
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    Aug 17 2013: Can you make up for the lack of sleep?

    Hm. As a perpetually sleep-deprived human being who has gone through clinical insomnia and had her melatonin balance destroyed by pills that she shouldn't have received in the first place and who is on a waiting list to spend some nights at a neurophysiological lab at a university hospital - I really do hope so.

    I've never had a natural sleep pattern before that, a pattern that is now described as a 8-hours block in a period of darkness. I've always had the tendency to get drowsy at least 1-2 hours after everybody's gone to bed, usually around 2 a.m. Then I would sleep for 5-6 hours if I had the opportunity. This allowed me to study at two departments while having two jobs and still party, but that was some time ago.

    You're mentioning dreadful 9-5 workdays. Most of my study and work-life I envied this dreadfullness, I had to work for over 10 and wasn't given possibility to retire after that with incessant phone-calls and e-mails that I had to answer to prevent a chain reaction of work and business disasters. That was one of the factors that contributed to sleep problems.

    If this conversation is still up after my brain activity is measured and tested and results are there, I'll write an update.
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    Aug 17 2013: .

    Easy!
    Just sleep about 12 hours each night.
    And then, one will create much more, be health much more, ...
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    Aug 15 2013: AHA! I haven't even watched the video yet....Karoshi. Saw a bunch of sleeping people during a documentary today. Not on TED, not even online, but on an old-fashioned DVD! In one 'chapter' it had lots of pictures of Japanese people sleeping EVERYWHERE, on trains, on buses, in public places, in parks, everywhere, because they were overworked and under...slept? Undersleeped? Under-the-sheets deficient? Whatever the term, they were regular, hard-working (if that is not a contradiction in terms) people and they were exhausted to the point of death!!!
  • Aug 15 2013: i have lived my life for the last 55 years of my life sleeping 3 to 4 hours a night. I do not think it affected me other than a lot of people calling me crazy. I admit that about every so many months I would crash and sleep for 12-16 hours.

    I have to admit I love naps and can sleep almost anywhere at anytime
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    Aug 15 2013: Lisa, Yeah it an old guy with a answer ... you say " those dreadful 9-5 workdays? " That is eight hours out of 24 hours that supports everything else you do and enjoy. You want to party go to bed at 6 PM and get up at ten to party. To do all of the other things (not including work) really is a option. I guess work is also a option depending on what you are willing to sacrifice.

    Might I suggest that you align you priorities ... if your work is interfering with your night life ... make a choice or a adjustment. If you truly feel like these options have caused "damage" then the choice should be obvious.

    Fritzie said it a lot nicer.

    Bob.
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      Aug 15 2013: I suspect that Lisa isn't bothered by needing to work eight hour days but rather is one of those natural night owls who has trouble shifting her natural sleep cycle to wake up at 7:30 or so.

      Some people never quite adjust, even over a career, to 9-5 but would have been fine working 10-6.

      And then there are those of us who were quite happy getting in to work at 6:15!
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        Aug 15 2013: Perhaps. I wake up at about 4 AM everyday. I am a morning person. As you say some are not. If this is true then she should attempt to find a job compatible with her body clock like working the grave yard shift.

        There is always a chance that there is a medical reason and going to a sleep study center may answer those questions.

        Thanks for presenting options to my thoughts.

        With respect, Bob.
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          Aug 15 2013: I've worked first, second, third shift. I've gone without sleep and with too much sleep for a whole host of different reasons. I haven't even watched the talk yet, but beyond whatever percentage of 'need for sleep' is in our genetic make-up, I think it only a small fraction is our life circumstance (when we sleep) and most of it is our intentional activity (meaning what kind of respect for and importance of sleep do we assign it?)

          By the way..."Thanks for presenting options to my thoughts" has already been trademarked as my company's default automatic response to troublemakers. JK.
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        Aug 15 2013: And then there are those of us who were quite happy getting OFF OF work at 6:15!
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          Aug 15 2013: I am sure it is true, but I believe people working swing shifts have more health challenges than those working more common shifts precisely because of sleep issues.

          By the way, when Robert says "thanks for presenting options to my thoughts," he means it.
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        Aug 15 2013: You're preaching to the choir, sister. I know from experience that people working swing shifts have more health challenges, physically and mentally.

        And I was definitely just kidding with Bob. I like him and his comments and I felt comfortable enough to make a J-O-C-i mean, K!-E with him...