What should you do after a week of very early mornings and countless late nights?
Wake up early on Saturday morning or enjoy a long lie in?
The answer may seem obvious, but it’s not.
Sleeping late on the weekend can cause more harm than good by increasing your risk of heart disease and spoiling how well you sleep in the long term.
But this doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a life of sleep deprivation. Read on to find out how to catch up on lost sleep without sacrificing your health.
Why do we need sleep?
If you’ve not been getting enough good quality sleep for a while, you may have a sleep debt. This simply means that to date, you’ve achieved fewer hours of sleep than the recommended 7 to 9 hours per night.
Not getting enough sleep matters because it can affect the production of fight-or-flight stress hormones and increase your risk of many conditions, including:
This is why it’s important to repay your sleep debt if you have one. You can do so by sleeping for as many hours as you’ve lost. But be careful, as it’s a bad idea to try and pay it all back at once with a lie in.
Sleeping much later than normal can upset your sleep schedule for the rest of the week, leading to poorer quality sleep and a need to have another lie in the next weekend.
How to repay a sleep debt
If the results show that you’ve fallen short of the minimum 7 hours of sleep per night, you may have a sleep debt.
Here’s how to pay it back.
To repay your sleep debt, you need to sleep for as many hours as you’ve lost. Avoid trying to pay it back all at once. Instead, aim to repay it slowly over a few weeks.
You can make manageable changes, such as going to bed 15 minutes earlier every night during the next week. Doing this could help you repay a sleep debt of 5 hours (that’s sleeping for 6 hours per night for 5 days) in just under 3 weeks.
Alternatively, try going to bed 1 or 2 hours earlier than usual on the weekend and allow yourself to wake up naturally. At first, you may sleep for longer than 7 to 9 hours, but over time the hours will decrease to the recommended level.
Breaking a binge sleeping habit
What if you’ve been trapped in a cycle of losing sleep during the week and making up for it on the weekend?
Don’t worry, it’s not too late to make a change. Follow the 3 steps below:
- Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
- Go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day.
- Stick to a similar sleep routine on weekdays and weekends.