A recent study commissioned by Furniture Village has revealed that 70% of people in the UK sleep less than the recommended amount during the week, losing on average 41 minutes of sleep per night. This racks up a sizeable five hours of ‘sleep debt’ by the weekend, causing many of us to oversleep through Saturday and Sunday in a bid to pay our tired-out bodies back.
But, some might ask, what’s the harm in skipping a bit of shut-eye through the week if you can enjoy a nice lie-in on a weekend? And it’s true, there is something appealing about those long, lazy Sunday morning snoozes. The problem is that sleep debt can’t actually be repaid in the way people think it can — chronic over-tiredness builds, meaning that your weekday deficit simply can’t be ‘made up for’ come the weekend. According to research carried out in line with the study, the secret is to reset our attitude to sleep through the week.
Intrigued? You should be – it might just be the case that there’s a whole world of activities you’re missing out on due to that pesky, irregular sleep cycle. In fact, this ‘sleep debt calculator’ will show you exactly how much time you’re giving up to a sleep debt that can’t be repaid – and what you could be doing instead.
If, say, you were racking up a sleep debt of 1hr45mins per week, this could be enough time to:
Visit 19 countries
Study 1 bachelor’s degree
Learn 9 languages
Star in 197 episodes of Love Island
Climb Mount Everest 4 times
Qualify as an airline pilot 3 times
Shoot an Avengers movie 5 times
Drive Route 66 14 times
The calculator, alongside advice from sleep experts on everything from distractions to diets, could help us salvage our sleeping routines through the week, so that we can take back the time lost to sleep debt. Here’s how get started:
Embrace exercise (up to 3 times per week):
Exercising is not only good for your health and fitness but a great way to get to sleep. Research has proven that taking this course of action can significantly change the quality and duration of your sleep in 16 weeks.
Cut the caffeine (after 2pm):
Cutting out caffeine after 2pm will ensure your sleep is not sabotaged, staying in your blood for over 7 hours after consumption.
Block out the blue light:
The blue light emitted by devices like computer screens and mobile phones can confuse our body clocks and suppress melatonin, which is what we need to tell us it’s time to sleep at night. By setting the screen aside for 2-3 hours before sleep, your body and mind can get ready for rest.
Use mood lighting:
Light is what lets our bodies know it is time to be up, alert and awake, so sitting with a brightly lit room for hours before sleep will make it hard to settle down.
Stay clear of stimulators:
The types of things we eat and the time we eat them can affect our sleep. Avoid stimulators such as sugar and refined carbohydrates, caffeine and alcohol where possible, and opt for the likes of almonds, avocados, cherries, spinach, egg whites, turkey and water instead. These will help your body to produce the right balance of sleep/wake hormones, and support sleep enhancing processes such as muscle relaxation.
So next time you’re scrolling through social media as it’s creeping up to bedtime on a weeknight, take a moment to consider how much that’s going to cost you at the weekend. Sure, everyone loves a lie-in from time to time, but don’t forget – there’s a whole world out there too, and it’s all the better to explore when you’re not knackered.