Can you bank sleep?

Mind

This is something we’ve often wondered. We try and get an early night before a big event – like a party holiday, or a wedding, or a big work week – in the hope that our bodies will somehow retain the sleep over the next few days. But can we actually bank sleep? Charlotte asks the experts…

Sort of yes

Howard Napper is a Yoga Expert & Wellbeing Advocate at Urban Retreat. “I’m sure it would be best to have sleep in the so-called “bank” before you face any kind of stressful situation. A good couple of nights sleep would more than likely limit the effects of, say, a poor night’s sleep on a flight to some degree,” he says.

Dr. Jim Brown is Consultant Physician and Sleep Specialist at the Centre for Human Health and Performance. “Traditionally we have assumed that it is not possible to build up a reserve of sleep. But there have been several studies that have suggested otherwise and there is now room to explore the possibility and certainly more research is needed.”

He goes on, “In one experiment two groups were compared, one of whom slept normally for a week (average 7 hours) and the second slept for up to 9 hours. All participants were then restricted to 3 hours sleep for a week. Those in the long sleeping group showed better performance in psychomotor testing and also more rapid recovery following the week of disrupted sleep suggesting a protective effect of the additional ‘banked’ sleep,” he says.

Dr Brown adds, “Another study looked at the impact of additional sleep in advance of habitual shift work. It showed that it improves performance and acute fatigue again suggesting that ‘sleep banking’ may be a real phenomenon. The main issue with the research so far is that the perceived effects of sleep banking may be no more than people who are chronically sleep deprived having the correct amount of sleep for the first time and recording the downstream positive impact of this.”

Should you be sleeping on a silk pillowcase?

Sort of no

Nahid de Belgeonne is a the founder of Good Vibes. “You can’t bank sleep in advance of the times when you know you will get less sleep. When you are in sleep debt you’ll notice that your thinking and reactions won’t be as sharp the next day.”

‘Catching up’, though, is easier. “Go to bed earlier but keep your wake up time the same. Try to get back to your regular sleep pattern as soon as you can,” Nahid says. “You could also try a 10-20 minute power nap in the day, or an active yoga pose.”

To conclude

Banking sleep may be able to help – but not nearly as much as regular, quality sleep (well, duh). Basically, experts are cautiously positive, but inconclusive. However, napping can be a great way to catch up on sleep and possibly more effective than banking sleep. “If there is a big event planned, it would certainly be worth increasing sleep in the weeks leading up to it. A short nap before a big event may give an extra edge,” Dr Brown says.

By Charlotte

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