It is a common problem. There is just not enough time to get everything done during the work week. When you’re scrambling to meet the countless demands of your day, it may be difficult to prioritize just what needs to get done and what can wait. For many, cutting back on sleep is the answer to making time for other tasks. “I’ll sleep in on the weekend, just have to make it till then.” I’m sure we’ve all had thoughts like these. Unfortunately, new research shows that sleeping in on weekends does not fix all the deficits of skipping sleep during the work week.
Research has shown that a few days of sub-par sleep can have various negative effects on your body. These effects include sleepiness, reduced attention span, and impaired blood sugar regulation. Lack of sleep can also negatively impact your mood and ability to handle stress. Until recently, it was unknown how effective weekend “recovery sleep” was at reversing these negative effects. Researchers at Penn State University have undergone an experiment, placing thirty people on a sleep schedule restricting weekday sleep. These people were then given extra time for “recovery sleep” on the weekend.
Researchers found that after recovery sleep, most of the negative effects of sleep deprivation were normalized, with the notable exception of attention span. “volunteers’ measures on a performance test that assessed their ability to pay attention deteriorated significantly after sleep restriction and did not improve after recovery.” These results suggest that recovery sleep (10 hours) of a single weekend is not enough to completely eliminate one’s “sleep debt.” The full article on the study can be found online Here.
So how can one avoid falling into sleep debt? Here are a few suggestions to help you keep good sleeping habits:
- Try to get your work/errands done earlier in the day: Getting work done early will help relieve pressure at night, and will allow you to go to sleep without worrying about leaving anything left undone. Setting “No-Work” hours near the end of your day may also help, and will have the added benefit of removing stress, hopefully helping you fall asleep.
- Keep a routine: Try to keep your sleep schedule consistent and healthy. If you go to bed whenever you feel like it, you will likely end up giving yourself less and less sleep.
- Remove caffeine from your diet: Caffeine is not a solution. Overuse of caffeine can help perpetuate sleeping problems. Try to find substitute methods of waking yourself up in the morning.
For more information on sleep debt and the effectiveness of recovery sleep, click Here.