Sleeping In on Weekends Doesn’t Pay Off “Sleep Debt”

Sleeping in on the weekends doesn’t catch people up on sleep lost during the week, but only makes them sleepier on Monday morning according to a study UT Southwestern released.

“A great myth of sleep deprivation is that if we miss sleep over the course of the work week, we need to catch up on an hour-by-hour basis on the weekend,” said Dr. Gregory Carter, a sleep medicine specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in a statement.

People can delay their circadian clock, up to one hour, by sleeping in one hour or more over the weekend. The problem is that after sleeping in on weekends, the brain’s circadian clock can be delayed up to two hours, making it tough to get to sleep Sunday and even more difficult to wake Monday morning.

Carter said going to bed earlier is more effective than sleeping in later. Balancing any “sleep debt” from the workweek can be accomplished by spending eight hours in bed. When people are very tired, their brains rest more efficiently.

“To maintain our internal clock, we need to go to bed eight hours before our usual time for getting out of bed in the morning,” Carter said. Too many of us, however, stay up later on Friday and Saturday nights and choose to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday mornings. This pattern – combined with sleep-defeating actions that may include alcohol consumption and late-night checking of e-mails just prior to bedtime—makes for a painful Monday wake-up call.”

Posted in Research.