Can You Recover Lost Sleep? Of Course.

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It happens almost weekly these days. Either by reasonable life circumstance or by me just being irresponsible, I will go a night with only four or five hours of sleep. And then the next day I feel like a zombie. I may grab some coffee or I may grab an apple, but more than anything I long for one thing: more sleep.

And some days, that is exactly what I get. It is never right away but I get it eventually, either in the form of a nap or going to bed an hour or two earlier the following night. Or as in the case of a couple of people I know, several extra hours on Friday night/Saturday morning.

When I mention in conversation that I can’t wait to catch up on missed sleep, I am often met with a response that is accompanied by the same disdain I have for people when they bash Chic-Fil-A: “What? You can’t catch up on lost sleep!” And with the tone of voice I would add the following implied message: “Are you some kind of anti-science idiot?”

I really have never understood this response. Because my counter-response is that I do catch up on sleep. It really is that simple.

I’ll spare you the links to articles on this topic. I’ve read a bunch of them and they typically agree with me in the sense that you can recover sleep in the short term, which is really my point. I have never tried to argue that I can recover anything from all of those sleepovers I had as a child in the ’80s where we barely slept. I only claim that lost sleep within a day or two, or a week at most, can at times easily be recovered.

But I don’t make this claim based on science. To me, it’s basic common sense. When I sleep eight hours several nights in a row, I typically wake up refreshed and not longing for sleep (though I may want to stay in bed due to being comfortable, warm and/or lazy). When I get five hours of sleep, I wake up wanting more. And all day I feel it. My body screams that it needs more sleep and if possible I will get it as soon as possible. I often say that if it comes down to reality and common sense vs. science, I’m going with reality. It’s why that it may be technically true that snow “makes it warmer,” in Chicago quite often it will be 47 degrees one day and the next it will snow and be 27 (which is exactly what happened this week as I type this). On those days, “science” doesn’t mean a thing. The snow in my reality made it colder. But this topic isn’t even that similar. The science, while unsettled, isn’t hardcore against me.

Let me be clear about something else that causes confusion: When I say I can recover lost sleep, this does not mean that I have to. There have been many times I have slept 4-5 hours or less and within the next week I could not find a time to get it back and at that point maybe it is lost forever (though I would never argue that there is some hard and fixed point that you can pass where sleep is no longer recoverable).

What happens as a result? I’m not sure. I can only guess. Maybe it makes me more susceptible to illness. Maybe it just makes me crankier than normal. Maybe it means nothing. I don’t know. I just know that if I can recover it I will. But life is too complex with ministry, marriage and heavy mental activity to allow it to always be possible. Often the very thing that kept me up all night the previous night will have my brain in such a high gear for several days that trying to nap is useless. I just have to deal with the fatigue and possible long term affects of sleep deprivation.

That’s my dos centavos on the subject. What do you think?

 

 

Gowdy Cannon

I am the pastor of the bilingual ministry of Northwest Community Church in Chicago. Our church is intentional in trying to bring English and Spanish speakers together in worship and community. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married two years. I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to adult immigrants in my community. I am, at times, a student at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

23 thoughts on “Can You Recover Lost Sleep? Of Course.

  • November 27, 2017 at 12:15 pm
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    I’m with you. I recover sleep all the time. Usually with a glorious nap in the middle of the day on my lunch break.

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  • November 27, 2017 at 8:05 pm
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    Nice! I know there are those that disagree. I wish they’d come on and say so!

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    • November 27, 2017 at 8:26 pm
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      Although I typically prefer disagreeing privately when I’m online, I’ll take the bait.

      If I miss crucial hours of sleep, napping or going to bed early does not make it better. I take days to recover. I don’t think I ever recover the missing sleep, but my body just recovers over time.

      But since you are disagreeing with the science in the name of common sense (which is a false dichotomy, in my opinion) then this entire claim is relative to each person’s experience. If you feel you can recover lost sleep but I feel that I cannot, then we are both correct as different physicalities require different approaches.

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      • November 27, 2017 at 9:18 pm
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        Part of the end of that paragraph was to eliminate the false dichotomy. Neither science nor reality are against me. The point is to say that if science were against me based on a person’s argument being backed by “Scientists say so” (which happens with a lot of arguments that are way more serious than this one) then it would not matter to me. Science is inexact at times and too exact other times and should rarely be used as a trump card. I use snow as an illustration though it is not a perfect illustration of course. I really just love bashing snow. Bwuahaha.

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        • November 28, 2017 at 5:15 pm
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          Agreed! Science is always changing. Certain aspects are constant, but other supposed truths change as we become more “enlightened” (gravity vs. nutrition, for example.)

          I hate winter, so I’m with you on the snow-bashing. However, if we have to have a winter at all, give me snow. My geographical location means that snow = potential days off of work. In Tennessee, it feels as though we are under the spell of the White Witch and it’s always winter but never snowy. As a Chicagoan, I’d never survive the weather. (And this has little to do with your point in the article.)

          Sleep on!

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          • November 28, 2017 at 5:29 pm
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            I would take snow if my wife wanted it for days off! I appreciate the middle ground on my science comments above. I really am trying to keep my word counts down for most articles and that means I often do not speak as clearly as I could.

  • November 27, 2017 at 8:26 pm
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    This is me saying so! I do not think you can recover from years and years of lost sleep. Maybe a few days at a time, but there is a limit. You cannot apologize to your 15 year old self for staying up half the night playing video games and eating half-stale corn chips by taking an extra nap. You have done the damage. Now pass the corn chips before I go take a nap.

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    • November 27, 2017 at 9:20 pm
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      I dealt with that in the article! Unless I misunderstand you. Which I may! If so we can hash it out on December 24th over some of Kim’s world class dressing.

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      • November 27, 2017 at 9:21 pm
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        (Or keep replying here. We at REO do love comments on site that contribute to enjoyable conversation.)

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  • November 27, 2017 at 9:02 pm
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    I do think that you can recatch your sleep for short-term sleeplessness like a busy day and/or getting to bed late. Things like that. The longer the sleeplessness gets the more dangerous and the less likely that it can be made up. There are smokers and drug users who do succeed in quitting, but that doesn’t mean there are physical consequences they won’t always have to live with despite those changes. There are studies that show that excessive sleeplessness really can bring about longterm physical problems. While you might get rested again, there are some thing that go with sleeplessness that are consequences that you can’t make up.

    I know this stuff because I have a medical doctorate in my brain.

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    • November 27, 2017 at 9:22 pm
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      I agree with this if I understand it right. And LOL to the last comment.

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  • November 27, 2017 at 9:25 pm
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    BTW…to all of the above comments I will say that I can totally get that others are not like me and may not can recover sleep like I (more or less) do. Part of this is just to say that I wish people would stop telling me I cannot. But I should not force my view/experience on others if that is what I do not want in the first place. Ironic how that happens. I could have communicated that but I didn’t.

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  • November 27, 2017 at 10:24 pm
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    It’s why that it may be technically true that snow “makes it warmer,” in Chicago quite often it will be 47 degrees one day and the next it will snow and be 27 (which is exactly what happened this week as I type this)“

    You think this is bashing snow??? It backs what I’ve said all along: snow makes it warmer. The weather front that brought he temperature from 47 to 27 would have been colder without the snow.

    The motto of the Northwest Church snow prayer team: if you don’t want cold, pray for snow. It seems to me like you should join the good side.

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    • November 27, 2017 at 11:16 pm
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      “Snow makes it warmer”. Those are your only words that matter. The rest is gymnastics.

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  • November 28, 2017 at 5:03 pm
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    62 in Chicago today! Balmy! Mild! Glad I prayed for no snow so I could enjoy yet another day of outstanding above freezing weather. 100% correlation in November in Chicago for snow and freezing weather. 100% correlation between no snow and non-freezing weather. But, you know, “Science’.

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  • November 28, 2017 at 5:09 pm
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    I don’t know if you can recover lost sleep, but I have made it my mission in life to try to find out!

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  • November 28, 2017 at 5:18 pm
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    How in the world did this article start an argument about snow in Chicago?

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    • November 28, 2017 at 6:02 pm
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      Gowdy accidentally admitted that the Northwest Snow Prayer Team has been right all along.

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  • November 29, 2017 at 9:18 am
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    “Part of this is just to say that I wish people would stop telling me I cannot. But I should not force my view/experience on others if that is what I do not want in the first place.”

    I am glad you don’t apply this sentiment to something that actually matters…like eternal life through Jesus.

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    • November 29, 2017 at 10:00 am
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      Ha! Even though I am way too passive to ‘force’ that on anyone, I still feel temptation as a preacher to have to say everything just right to get them to believe and repent. As if that’s my job.

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  • November 29, 2017 at 9:22 am
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    And I have no scientific evidence nor personal experience that will contribute to your catching-up-on-sleep debate. As a parent of 5 children ages 2-9, I am never afforded an opportunity to catch up on sleep. But I am surviving, sometimes thriving, and always striving…for any sleep.

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    • November 29, 2017 at 9:59 am
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      Maybe my opinion will change when we have kids!

      Reply

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