Whether you have an early flight or are preparing for a night out, many of us know the stress that comes with knowing you won’t get much sleep that night.
Trying to catch up on those missed hours can be tough, but experts say there’s actually an easy way to guard against the effects of sleep deprivation in advance.
Sleep banking involves getting extra sleep before the day you know you’ll be sleep deprived, and it could take as little as an hour a night.
For example, this could include going to bed an hour early for six nights before an event at the end of the week or taking a 20-minute nap during your lunch break.
Sleep banking is the practice of getting an extra couple of hours of rest each night before a period when you know you won’t be getting as much sleep, such as while traveling or after having a child.
“I think trying to get as much sleep as possible before a period of time where you think sleep might be problematic is absolutely helpful,” Dr. Chris Winter, a neurologist and sleep expert, told DailyMail.com.
“While it may not necessarily be as good as getting a perfect night’s sleep every night of your life, I don’t know who falls into that category.”
For most people, the body needs seven to nine hours a night to protect itself from a number of diseases.
Sleep banking is the practice of sleeping more than usual for a short period of time leading up to a time when you know you won’t get much sleep. This could mean getting an extra hour of sleep each night before an early morning flight.
The sleep bank concept was first coined in 2009 by researchers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
in its studythe team planned to rest if possible to ‘prepare’ for sleepless nights.
They found that participants who accumulated sleep before periods in which they got less sleep than normal had improved alertness compared to those who stuck to their normal routine.
Additionally, a 2020 review suggested that the sleep bank could provide critical improvements to reaction time in military personnel.
The idea is that once you hit a busy period, you can rely on the sleep you’ve accumulated.
pointed a Swiss study 2021 which assessed whether it was better to sleep 56 total hours per week sleeping the same duration every night (eight hours per night for seven nights), or averaging those 56 hours over the entire week.
“He was basically saying, ‘Look, your risk of dying is no different if you’re averaging seven or eight hours of sleep a night than if you’re actually getting it,'” Dr. Winter said.
Furthermore, a French study published in the journal Sleep the participants slept seven to nine hours a night for the week before limiting their sleep to just three hours. The group that had accumulated overtime was less likely to make significant errors on a reaction time test than the group that had not accumulated more sleep.
Participants in the nine-hour group also recovered faster from their sleep-deprived period.
The sleep bank could reduce sleep debt, also known as a sleep deficit. According to the sleep foundation, this is the difference between the amount of sleep you need and the amount you actually get. If your body needs eight hours of sleep, for example, and you only get six, you have accumulated two hours of sleep debt.
Sleep debt is cumulative, so if you go to bed an hour later than usual for a few days in a row, that will add up.
The sleep bank could help the third of Americans who don’t get enough rest each night. According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34 percent of American adults don’t get at least seven hours of sleep, the recommended amount each night.
The key is to catch up on the amount of sleep lost in a week, Dr. Winter said. After this point, those hours start to add up.
“As long as you do it fast and you’re pretty diligent about it, I think that can lead to a perfectly healthy and happy life,” he said.
Lack of sleep has consistently been linked to chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression.
According to 2020 data from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which surveyed 400,000 Americans in the US, the states with the most sleep deprivation include Hawaii, West Virginia, and Kentucky.
Sleep deprivation in this data set means less than seven hours per night.
The states with the least sleep deprivation include Colorado, Minnesota, and South Dakota.
This drops to 26 percent when adults are over 65, but still more than a quarter of adults don’t get enough sleep.
Men are more likely than women to get enough sleep overall, with 33.3 percent saying they get less than seven hours of sleep a night compared to 32.1 percent of women.
He Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 8.4 percent of American adults take sleeping pills, more than double the amount they did 10 years earlier.
These could rob the body of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Too little REM sleep could lead to forgetfulness and make it harder to get up in the morning.
He Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all Americans get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Children ages 6 to 12 need 9 to 12 hours a night, while adolescents should sleep 8 to 10 hours.
Sleeping in on the weekend or taking a nap in the middle of the day are easy ways to build the sleep bank into your week.
“My number one piece of advice is that this should not be the default position,” said Dr. Winter. Is what you are betting on something that you could have avoided? If the answer is yes, let’s talk about ways to not get to this position.’
This includes trying not to stay up late watching a TV show or going out.
However, if you can’t avoid the sleep bank, such as if you work the night shift or have a newborn, keep it consistent. If you take a nap in the middle of the day, do so at the same time and for the same length each day.
“Try to make it almost like a date instead of ‘I just sleep when I can,'” Dr. Winter said.