Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
80
Recovery from Sleep Loss (#2)
May 23, 2022

Found in age groups

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Introduction

A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

A 2017 online study of 31,000 participants over the age of 18 examined 3 million nights of sleep.  Insufficient sleep was defined as having less than 6 hours of time in bed. “We find that, on average, it takes three nights to make up one insufficient night sleep and six nights to make up two insufficient nights of sleep in a row.” However, in this study, during the six nights of recovery sleep, there were no constraints regarding sleep duration and it is possible that during the 6-day recovery period, some individuals had additional nights of insufficient sleep.

Blog 80Recovery from Sleep Loss (#2)

I asked one author, Dr. Zeitzer, how fast recovery might occur if an individual actually obtained more than six hours of sleep each night during the recovery period. “I think that, based on laboratory studies, one could assume that baseline performance could be obtained after two nights (following one night of sleep loss) and probably three or four nights after two nights of sleep loss. If by ‘baseline’ performance, we mean an average performance after average sleep, then it’s probably one to two days of recovery per particularly bad day of sleep.” In other words, if your child is chronically a little short on sleep, the return to this baseline state might take one or two days of recovery sleep to make up for one night of insufficient sleep. This only applies to an individual whose baseline reflects mild habitual sleep deprivation. 

However, Dr. Zeitzer added, “If by baseline performance we mean non-sleep-deprived performance, I think that most people would take a few weeks of good sleep” to completely recover. 

Summary

  • Well-rested young children who get a little short of sleep during a brief holiday or illness might completely recover after a one-night ‘reset’ (Blog Post 26).
  • Well-rested older children and teens who get very short of sleep for a 5-day school week will not fully recover over a 2-day weekend (Blog post 79).
  • Children chronically a little short of sleep have a mildly impaired baseline performance and when much more sleep deprived, recovery to this impaired baseline might take 2 nights for each night of sleep deprivation or 3-4 nights of recovery sleep for 2 nights of sleep deprivation in a row.
  • Children chronically a little short of sleep have a mildly impaired baseline performance and recovery to a non-sleep deprived baseline might take a few weeks of good sleep to fully recover.
  • Well-rested children and teens are happier when they get even more sleep (Blog Posts 6 and 79).
  • To get more sleep, move the bedtime earlier (Blog Posts 7 and 74).
  • Healthy sleep in infancy might produce easier temperaments (Blog Post 48) and fewer emotional and behavioral problems (Blog Post 75) when older.
  • Sleep Banking (Blog Post 63) may help recovery from sleep loss.

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