Sleep Myths: Do kids recover from lost sleep by oversleeping the next day?

Trying to debunk myths has become more complicated these days. With access to information almost anywhere, and with anyone being able to put their two cents into them, hard facts could get more fictional as time passes by.

This article originally appeared in ABS CBN News in May 2020

On many occasions, sleep has been the center of several myths that could deeply affect a person's development. While this is not purely false, this is far from the truth as well. One sleep myth, in particular, is worth noting—that people can cheat the amount of sleep they get through a compromise.

Myth: Lost sleep can be recovered by oversleeping the next day

You could be thinking, ''What better way to make up for inadequate sleep than to oversleep the next day?'' In reality, getting accustomed to irregular sleep patterns only puts you at a higher risk of health issues due to sleep deprivation. What is worse is that this not only applies to adults and the elderly, but also among growing kids and adolescents.

To put the rumors to rest once and for all, the National Sleep Foundation stated that this myth is false, ''When we do not get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep debt that can be difficult to "payback" if it becomes too big. The resulting sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems such as obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road.''

Steven Dowshen, MD, said that even though stunted growth is not the immediate result of a single night of no sleep, it is however a common consequence when getting the full amount of sleep is not observed over the long term. This is due to the inherent function of growth hormones which can only be released during sleep. Hence, aside from consistent lack of sleep (known as ''sleep deprivation'') being linked to critical illnesses, it also keeps the growth hormone suppressed.

Microsleeps or brief sleep episodes that can last for a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds, become longer and more frequent, the more sleep deprivation is experienced from bargaining between sleep and waking hours. These may intrude into wakefulness, causing daytime performance to deteriorate even if a person is highly motivated to stay awake.

According to Paraluman M. Manuel, MD, DPPS, excessive daytime sleepiness and decreased daytime alertness levels which are recognizable as drowsiness, yawning, and other classic 'sleepy' behaviors are manifested when sleep is of insufficient quantity and poor quality, such as those of microsleeps. This can affect children's memory, attention, concentration, decision-making, and problem-solving, due to the derived mood ranging from irritability to anger.

While some would argue that the irregular sleep-wake syndrome does not automatically equate to being sleep-deprived, understand that it boils down to building a healthy circadian rhythm, or the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, which determines an individual's cognitive function and execution of daily activities. Avoiding the 'sleep compromise' is less about being satisfied with the bare minimum and more of gradually developing the beneficial effects obtained from honing ethical sleep habits.

Registered dietician and Super Healthy Kids page creator Natalie said that a bedtime routine is just as vital to kids as it is for adults. ''While it may seem unnatural to wake a child who is sleeping soundly, there are times when capping a nap or waking your child to start the day is necessary to encourage a better overall pattern of sleep,'' she said before suggesting that choosing a time in the evening to shut down all other activities and focus on sleep, and a time in the morning to wake up consistently, is key to good sleep hygiene.

Geared toward staying on top of this matter, Dr. Manuel recommends three things parents can do for their children to achieve good quality sleep:

1. Reinforce an appropriate and regular sleeping schedule – a regular pattern of sleeping habit helps a child develop a good circadian rhythm.

2. Limit the use of media and gadgets – follow through the timetable set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

3. Include sources of high-quality protein in their diet – good sources of high-quality protein are found in food such as fish, meat, eggs, oats, and milk. A high protein diet also helps the body to recover during sleep and optimizes its quality.