Myths abound in areas not fully understood by science and sleep is a good example. Even though it is an essential aspect of life, we’ve only begun to comprehend the fundamentals of sleep. Science is making progress, but myths still pervade. One myth is the idea that people can catch up on sleep.
Do you think sleep debt is something you can mend? Let’s find out.

The Myth

When you stay up late, you lose precious hours of sleep. An hour or two of lost sleep can quickly pile up over the course of the week.
A common belief is that you can make up for lost hours by sleeping more when time permits, usually over the weekend. A lot of people believe that it is effective. They feel recharged after spending more hours in bed.

The Fact

If your week becomes busy and you lose sleep, you accumulate sleep debt. In layman’s terms, it is the difference between the amount of sleep that your body needs and the amount of sleep that you get. Such lost sleep can result in impaired driving, reduced cognitive abilities, and reduced vision. It can also cause certain diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and insulin resistance.
Sleeping more hours when possible can help in rejuvenating a person. However, it does not eliminate all the drawbacks of insufficient sleep. Dozing off for a few extra hours can reduce stress and daytime sleepiness. Nevertheless, it will not help improve certain cognitive functions such as the ability to stay focused. It can also confuse your internal body clock and might lead to Sunday night insomnia – Difficulty sleeping on Sunday nights around bedtime.
Some studies have also shown that settling sleep debt does not fully restore the body. The effect might only last for a short time, as little as 6 hours once you wake up. Afterward, sleep deprivation rears its ugly head in the form of slow reaction times.


The idea that people can catch up on sleep is not true. Although sleeping for a few hours can give the feeling of rejuvenation, you will still feel the effects of sleep deprivation after six hours. Sleeping at least 7 to 9 hours per day is recommended.