7 Surprising Things That Actually Happen To Your Body When You Try To Catch Up On Sleep

4. You Can Get More REM Sleep

Rapid eye movement, or REM sleep is the last stage of your sleep cycle, but one of the most important: REM sleep may help you learn, store memories, and balance your mood. And as you try to catch up on sleep, you may be able to have more REM sleep every night.

“[Increased REM sleep] generally occurs because there is more REM in the last third of the night, and when someone does not get enough sleep this is usually what they loose,” Dr. Breus says. So as you catch up on sleep, your sleep cycle may become more complete, and you’ll get access to the full benefits of a good night’s sleep.

5. Your Attention Span Can Improve

As you try to catch up on sleep, your body may begin the quiet work of getting your attention span back on track.

“Studies show that the longer you are sleep deprived, the worse your attention gets,” Dr. Kansagra says. “The goal is to focus on getting sufficient quality sleep rather than worrying about how much or how little we’ve slept.” So try to catch up on sleep in a more mindful way by focusing on sleep hygiene and healthy sleep habits.

6. You Could Fall Into The Trap Of Binge Sleeping

While a lot of what can happen to your body when you try to catch up on sleep is quite positive, there are also some negative things that can happen if you’re not adequately addressing your body’s needs.

“Napping the next day, or napping on the weekend, or sleeping in on the weekend are short-term solutions to sleep debt,” Dr. Martha Cortes, owner of Sleep Fitness LLC in NYC and sleep medicine lecturer, tells Bustle. “While extra weekend sleep does reduce daytime sleepiness and stress, your ability to focus and pay attention is still reduced. This is called binge sleeping and it is not an adequate method to repay sleep debt.” The best way to get rid of sleep debt, Dr. Cortes says, is to go to bed thirty minutes earlier every night for a week or two. Your body will thank you.

7. You Can Help Prevent Chronic Sleep Deprivation

If you don’t procrastinate, and really commit to catching up on sleep after becoming sleep deprived, your body will put in the work as well, and help prevent health issues related to chronic sleep deprivation.

“Sleep is not optional, and getting limited quantities has real consequences,” Dr. Kansagra says. “Lack of adequate nighttime sleep can cause chronic sleep deprivation.” So as you’re catching up on sleep, even if it takes some getting used to, remind yourself that you’re helping your body be healthier in the long run.

As you get rid of sleep debt, it can be comforting to know all the ways you’re helping your body. “Sleep is oftentimes seen as a luxury that can be fulfilled if and when time allows as there is generally ‘more important things to do,'” Dr. Vyas says. “However, we are learning from ongoing sleep research that sleep is as essential as eating, breathing, and exercise.” So even if you have the occasional setback, being committed to getting adequate sleep is still a worthwhile goal.