Do you have to totally make up sleep debt or else it will haunt you forever? My example: I slept between 2 and 4 hours each day for the past 6 days. Of course I felt like crap. Today, I just woke up from a 16 hour uninterrupted sleep. I feel better, but still not 100%. Do I have to make up every hour I missed before I start feeling better? What if I never make it up? I'm fairly sure I have hundreds of hours of sleep debt accumulated over the past few years.
My reason for asking: I have an entire week off from work without any kind of family/etc obligations whatsoever. Theoretically, I could sleep 16 hours a day for 8 days. I don't think I'd be able to do that naturally so I'd need to take some sort of sleep aid. Is this a good idea?
I just want to feel bright and chipper... the way I did when I was getting 8 hours a night.
You need to [U]consistently[/U] get the amount of hours you need every night at a regular bedtime. You can't really 'catch-up' on sleep if your schedule wildly fluctuates because your body isn't really sure when to release certain hormones to do their job of restoring your health. Under-sleeping one week and then oversleeping the next really isn't the best way to go about this; it's too stressful for your body even if you mentally feel it's ok.
Wind down when the sun goes down and wake up when the sun comes up. Obviously life gets in the way of this very basic yet penultimate rule of thumb, so wind down two hours before you need to go to bed and wake up naturally without using any alarm clocks or other stressful gadgets. Sync up your circadian rhythm and you'll feel the benefits within weeks.
I used to be able to pull all nighters in college and catch up on sleep during the weekends, but no longer as age catches up with me. It's not a good idea to go from oversleeping one night to sleep deprivation the next. You should aim to get a consistent amount nightly.
IME you don't need to replace all the the lost sleep, but you do need a couple of good nights where you wake up naturally after.
This is based on parenting kids that won't fecking sleep for years, to catch up on all the sleep I have missed would take a sleeping beauty type effort and I can't not pee for that long, but I know a couple of nights good sleep and I feel better.