Should You Pay Sleep Debt On The Weekend?

If you’re like me, you don’t always (okay, usually) don’t get anywhere near the ideal amount of sleep through the week. I would consider myself more of a night owl and tend to burn the candle at both ends and so when Sunday morning comes around – let me sleep in. Insert kids – and this usually means maybe an extra hour or two longer than usual but I take it when I can. Some recent research looked at whether catching up on sleep during the weekend offset a deficit that most of us get during the week.  Spoiler Alert – sleeping in on Sat and Sun doesn’t help (enough).

The researchers divided people into 3 groups over a week long period:

  • Control Group – 9 hours of sleep per night for the whole time.
  • Sleep Deprived – 5 hours of sleep per night for the whole time.
  • Weekend Recovery – 5 hours of sleep Mon – Fri, as much as the wanted on the weekend (could even nap)

My idea when I started reading would be that the recovery group would actually make up for some of the lost time and that would make a significant health improvement. Wrong!

  • Weight gain was almost identical for the people that stayed sleep deprived and those that tried to catch up.- Both were higher than group that got enough sleep.
  • In some ways, weekend recovery sleep resulted in worse outcomes than continued sleep loss. For example, weekend recovery sleep led to greater deterioration in insulin sensitivity.
  • Melatonin rhythms in the weekend recovery group were disrupted by over 1.4 hours the following Monday – which means you’re going to have trouble falling asleep and not get great sleep.

We’re all going to have periods through the year that we have big project and deadlines which results in less sleep. It’s just gonna happen. This also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make up for periods of lost sleep but does show that it’s going to be a process and sleep deprivation (in this study was 5 hours of sleep vs 9 hours which was optimal) is really bad for your health long term.  I’m more of a 6 hours per night and this was a real wake up call that I can’t catch up on the weekend to make up for staying up late during the week working. I’m a lot more dedicated to making sure I get more sleep and the sleep I get is the most kick-ass sleep I can get. Here’s what I’m doing to help:

  • Not wearing shades in the morning. I’m stuck inside most of the day so when I do get outside I want my eyes and brain to see that time of day it is so the right circadian hormones will get released when they’re supposed to.
  • I’ve been wearing blue light blockers almost every day during the day and definitely in the evening if I’m on a screen. I’ve actually noticed a significant change in eye strain due to this.
  • Keeping the house cool at night, 65-67 degrees.
  • Totally dark in the room. This was a game changer for me; we got black out curtains and once I got a taste of the darkness I became obsessed with making sure our room was totally dark. This also means limiting clock lights, night lights, everything.
  • I’m only drinking coffee first thing in the morning and not in the afternoon anymore. In fact, I’ve been trying to cut back on caffeine and have been doing more MudWtr in the mornings than coffee- the reason being- coffee has a half life of 12 hours (if you’re lucky) which means if you have that 3pm espresso, you’ve still got half the caffeine in your system at 3am.
  • Supplement with a good quality methylated B vit through the day, 4-500 mgs magnesium through the day, 50 mgs 5HTP before bed. This is a common example of what I would recommend to someone but each person is different so consult with your health care provider before starting any new health regimen/ supplement.
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