Repaying sleep debt on holidays? Unlikely, expert says

Work-related stress makes many of us lose sleep, and catching up on lost sleep is high on the agenda as the summer holidays approach. Poor sleep can’t be turned into good overnight, but it pays off to try, as good sleeping habits keep us going on holiday and at work.

“People tend to work very hard before the holidays, thinking that’s when they’ll have time to sleep. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. If you’ve slept poorly over a long period of time, your holidays will get spent on just recovering,” says Docent Henri Tuomilehto from the University of Eastern Finland.

Last-minute corrective measures won’t help much, either. Tuomilehto stresses the importance of good sleeping habits and routines as the cornerstones of good sleep.

“If you’ve neglected your sleep all year, you can’t really expect things to suddenly change when you start your holidays. Having said that, there’s no need to get anxious. There’s always the next year’s holidays, and now is a good time to look in the mirror and think about possible changes.”

In his work as a sleep specialist at Oivauni Sleep Clinic, Tuomilehto mainly works with working-age patients. He also specialises in the sleep of professional athletes, as he works with Finnish football and ice-hockey teams, the Finnish Olympic Committee, and the Finnish Ski Sport Foundation. Furthermore, Tuomilehto is a member in the international committee preparing new treatment guidelines for obstructive sleep apnoea.

“Generally speaking, people sleep less than they think they do. Sleeping time is often sacrificed to evening-time household chores, TV watching and, most importantly, using our smart devices in the bed. You think you go to sleep at a given time, but in reality, you are still browsing the internet one hour later. Nevertheless, sleep is something that shouldn’t be sacrificed.”

So, how to make adjustments to one’s sleeping habits, and how to tell if there’s a need to make them in the first place?

“A person who sleeps well is energetic. If you feel like you could be more energetic, it’s a good idea to try sleeping one hour longer for a couple of weeks – that’s enough to tell if there’s a difference. Another important thing is to stop making excuses for your poor sleep, as the majority of the contributing factors can be impacted on.”

If despite all efforts you still don’t sleep well, it’s worthwhile to think about the possibility of a sleep disorder. In Finland, one in five people suffer from a sleep disorder, and the problem is widespread globally, too.

At the end of our holidays, we often toss and turn in the bed, anxious about having to return to work.

“It’s normal for people to react to something important or exciting that's coming up. One night’s bad sleep isn’t important. It's the big picture that counts.”

For further information, please contact:

Docent Henri Tuomilehto, Oivauni Sleep Clinic and University of Eastern Finland, tel. +358405945068, 


About Us

The University of Eastern Finland, UEF, is one of the largest universities in Finland. The activities of the UEF underscore multidisciplinarity, and the university is especially strong in research related to forests and the environment, health and well-being, and new technologies and materials. The UEF offers teaching in more than 100 major subjects. In addition to the high standard of teaching, the university offers its students a modern study environment, which is under constant development. The university comprises four faculties: the Philosophical Faculty, the Faculty of Science and Forestry, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Social Sciences and Business Studies. The university’s campuses are located in the heart of beautiful eastern Finland in Joensuu, Kuopio and Savonlinna. The UEF is home to approximately 15 000 students and nearly 2 800 members of staff.


  • University of Eastern Finland
    Joensuu / Kuopio / Savonlinna
  • Joensuu Campus
    Yliopistokatu 2 P.O. Box 111 FI-80101 Joensuu
  • Kuopio Campus
    Yliopistonranta 1 P.O. Box 1627 FI-70211 Kuopio
  • Savonlinna Campus
    Kuninkaankartanonkatu 5 P.O. Box 86 FI-57101 Savonlinna