Nature’s sleep deficit remedy

As with many Americans, I run a sleep deficit.

Since I am a so-called professional, it means I have a busy day that often extends into off-hours.

On a typical work day, here’s what time bank funds are available:

I have about six hours free per work day. Preparing a meal is part of that time slice. If I have to run additional errands, perform night work, socialize, attend a talk, freelance writing, answer emails for research, read a book, research or prepare for a trip, or write an article, etc.  that six hours of free time per day is a thin slice indeed.  If I had children, that slice would be even less.

Oh,  I can sometimes use my the daytime hours to get things done (during lunch hour for example or sneak in something while waiting for other work to finish), but anything that requires more involved concentration has to wait until the work day is completed.

The number of sleep hours is a best case scenario. As with many Americans, I try to cheat a bit and borrow from my sleep funds. I often go to bed, in reality, at 1 am or even later on a weekday.

But those funds must be repaid pack. Sleep deficit effects are obvious to most: Hard to concentrate and focus, lack of energy, more susceptible to illness, and many other symptoms.

Stealing from the sleep bank to increase the time bank funds is akin to using one credit card to pay off another: A short-term solution with very bad consequences in the long term.

But there was an interesting article on NPR recently about how winter camping is a great way to reset the clock and pay back some of the stolen sleep funds.

Seems intuitive to any active winter outdoors person, but the science behind the study is fascinating.  Essentially, by running a sleep deficit we are outside of our natural circadian rhythms. The longer we keep a sleep deficit going, the more pronounced the off-kilter feeling becomes. We are creating our own jet lag.

A weekend or longer winter trip with its long nights and no distractions means a long night’s sleep or several.

A chance to catch up and just enjoy, well, the bliss of sleep.

When I was in The Badlands, a quick camping trip,  and on a recent backpacking trip, I was very refreshed at the end.

By 6 PM or so, I was out.  My sleep was caught up on and I felt very refreshed and both the physical and mental energy levels were restored.

The accommodations are basic but the views are lovely. #winter #backpacking #camping #skiing #colorado

A photo posted by Paul Mags (@pmagsco) on

I am off to another trip this coming weekend for a few days. I am struggling to finish some fairly extensive paperwork due as part of the recent life change.  I struggle because, like many Americans, I robbed from my sleeping funds to add to my time bank hours.

But I know I’ll be refreshed and relaxed after the coming long weekend.

But that, too, is a short term solution.

As I get older, the time bank hours become more and more important. What was written 140 years ago seems applicable to today’s world:


“Be independent, but not impudent. See all you can, and make the most of your time; “time is money;” and, when you grow older, you may find it even more difficult to command time than money.”

Seeking a sustainable balance is a long-term goal. There have been some bumps in the recent year.

But I am sure at some point the balance will be achieved.

In the meantime, these weekend resets are very much needed for both mental and physical health.

Ma Nature is a wonderful healer.



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