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Is It Possible to Catch Up on Sleep?

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Maybe you were watching a show, finishing up some last-minute work or you just had a random bout of insomnia. Whatever the reason for pulling an all-nighter, you're bound to deal with the negative repercussions of it the following day. You might think that a solid nap will negate the effects of your lack of sleep, but that isn't always the case. Sleep is much more complicated than you might think. It's the body's time to repair day-to-day damage. Plus, during some stages of shut-eye, our brains are extremely active. That's why the idea of catching up on sleep seems logical enough, but it's not always so simple.

You might not be able to nap away your lack of sleep.You might not be able to nap away your lack of sleep.

Different Sleep Stages
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there are five stages of sleep: 1, 2, 3, 4 and REM (rapid eye movement). During stage 1, the body is in and out of a sleeping state. Adults spend most of their sleep time in the second stage, when eye movement stops and brain activity begins to slow down. The next stage is made up of even slower brain activity, mixed in with sporadic bouts of faster brainwaves. Stage 4 is comprised almost entirely of the slowest brain activity. The REM stage, in which adults spend about 20 percent of their sleep time, is when activity kicks back up again. This is when heart rate increases, blood pressure rises and dreams occur. 

"A full sleep cycle lasts 90-110 minutes."

REM Requirements
A full sleep cycle lasts 90-110 minutes, according to the NINDS. As you sleep throughout the night, your REM stage lasts longer, meaning if you don't get a full night of sleep, it has greater effects on this stage. The next time you fall asleep, you'll skip the other stages and go straight to REM, which alters your sleeping patterns.

Therefore, it's difficult to catch up on sleep, and if you make it a habit, it could lead to some bigger issues. Consistently attempting to nap away your lack of shut-eye can have worse repercussions than pulling one all-nighter without an accompanying nap. However, for shift and overnight workers, this irregular sleep schedule is sometime unavoidable. In that case, there are several habits they can learn to lessen the negative effects of inconsistent sleep: Keep the room as dark as possible to encourage the body to feel tired, try to enforce a consistent sleep schedule even on days off and cancel out any daytime noise with a fan.