Is It Really Possible To "Catch-Up" On Sleep On The Weekends?

We consult a sleep specialist.

mental health
Image: Courtesy of Unsplash

After long hours at work, squeezing late night events and early morning training sessions, many of us don’t sleep enough—about 77% according to this 2018 Australian study. As a result, many of us rely on the weekends for those extra zzz’s to catch up. Not only does this make us physically feel better, but we trust it restores all the damage we experience by not sleeping enough during the week, right? Wrong.

One study, featured in Current Biology found a lack of sleep alters your metabolism: you crave sugar and need to eat more after dinner, which leads to weight gain. Due to impaired insulin resistance, any sugar you consume isn’t processed properly, so you end up overeating.

Interestingly, the researchers tested what would happen if their sleep-deprived participants slept longer, aka what you might do on the weekends. Unfortunately, results showed the recovery sleep, even though longer, did not reverse the metabolic consequences of limited sleep.

sleep deprived
Image: iStock

And what about your brain? Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but research published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment flagged chronic sleep restriction leads to a reduction in cognitive functioning—you’re slower, less accurate and more likely to make mistakes—even after you’ve had a ‘catch up’ sleep.

Neurologically, the scientists explained your brain adapts to the lack of sleep, and reverting back to full functioning is an extremely demanding task—so to conserve the little mental energy you have, your brain simply stays in a poorer functioning state.

And lastly, what happens to your mood? Fortunately, I can inspire some hope. Although scientific evidence highlights sleep restriction to contribute to a lowered mood, greater negativity and increased sensitivity to stress, research in American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism has found these effects to be resolved when permitted to sleep properly.

So… what’s a busy girl (or guy) to do?

Sleep properly through the week, that’s what. Follow the sleep-specialist certified night-time routine of wearing blue light blocking glasses, setting a goodnight alarm (aka the time you will get off your phone), diffusing a pro-sleep oil such as Oil Gardens Sleep Assist and finish off with a meditation session, like yours truly.

You’ll be in for the best sleep of your life—both weekdays and weekends.

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