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Should You Use the Weekends to Catch Up on Sleep?

  • Category: LiveSmart
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  • Written By: Baldwin

Missing out on some weekday shut-eye? Here's how extra sleep on the weekends affects you.

You've been burning the candle at both ends for days on end. No matter what you do, you can't seem to find enough time to get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night that most adults need due to other competing demands for your time. So what are you to do when you're short on time and losing out on much-needed sleep?

Many people use the weekends as a way to catch up on sleep they've missed throughout the week. There have been numerous studies done on the subject to determine whether this "catch-up sleep" actually offers any benefits – showing mixed results.

Sleep experts used to think it was impossible to catch up on sleep you've already missed. However, some recent studies suggest there may be some benefit to making up for lost sleep on the weekends. One 2018 study found that people who caught up on sleep on the weekends lived longer than people who didn't catch up on their lost sleep at all. Two other studies suggested that catch-up sleep was associated with better health outcomes and reduced low-grade inflammation. A 2023 study on adolescents found that weekend catch-up sleep had a protective effect on those who were most sleep-deprived.

Although the research is not definitive when it comes to how much of a benefit catch-up sleep can have on our health, there is some indication that hitting the snooze button on the weekends may help offset some effects of not getting enough shut-eye throughout the week.

But is there such a thing as getting too much sleep?

Before you think that spending your weekends under the covers is the perfect antidote to a sleep-deprived week, keep in mind that oversleeping can have some of the same negative effects on your body as not sleeping enough. If you sleep too much at once, you may find yourself feeling groggy and may experience some cognitive impairment. Oversleeping regularly has also been linked to serious health issues, including obesity, depression, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

So what is the best way to make up for lost sleep?

Instead of spending lots of extra hours in bed on the weekends, try to chip away at your sleep debt little by little by following these tips:

  • Take short naps during the day (15 to 30 minutes max).
  • Make a list of things you can live without doing that are taking away from your sleep time, like scrolling on social media or binge-watching TV. Instead, try to go to bed 30 – 60 minutes earlier each night.
  • Create an evening ritual that gets you ready for sleep. Whether that's a warm shower, a mellow playlist, 20 minutes of reading or a cup of chamomile tea, what you do before you get into bed can help you fall asleep faster.
  • Do some prep work on the weekends to make your morning routine shorter so you can sleep a little later. For example, prep meals and choose your clothes for each day.

The best way to avoid the negative effects of sleep deprivation is to make sleep a priority, just as you make other healthy lifestyle habits an important part of your day. Getting enough sleep not only keeps you more energized and happier but it can go a long way towards keeping you healthier, too.

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Date Last Reviewed: March 18, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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