Nowadays, getting enough sleep can be a challenge. Especially if you're a parent! Weekdays are filled with school and work and activities, and it's a constant go-go-go until the weekend rolls around. It's not uncommon to find yourself burning the midnight oil during the week in order to catch up or stay on top of your never-ending To Do list. Plenty of us sacrifice sleep during the week, with the understanding that we'll catch-up on it once the weekend rolls around. But is sleeping in on the weekends actually a good idea? Science says yes, but there's a catch.
This sleep-debt, as it's being called, can be paid back on the weekend. But researchers say you shouldn't make a habit out of it. The problem is, getting less than the recommended about of sleep every night can start to drastically effect your overall health. For most adults, a full-night's sleep is anywhere between 7 - 9 hours a night (we wish!). If you consistently sleep less than six hours a night, it can wreak havoc on your metabolism and cardiovascular system, for starters. Even one or two nights of less sleep can impair your mood, concentration, and mental health.
For example, one study found that people who got less than six hours of sleep a night had trouble completing even basic tasks. They experienced more lapses in attention and reaction times than people who slept seven hours or more.
But, as we all know, sometimes you just can't get the recommended amount of sleep during the week. Life gets in the way, and as much as we want to sleep, sometimes we sacrifice those hours for something higher on the priority list. But the study published in the Journal of Sleep Research suggests that we may be able to fight off some of those negative effects by sleeping in on the weekends. The study followed more than 43,000 adults in Sweden for 13 years. Researchers compared death rates during that time period with participant's self-reported sleep habits.
They found that adults under the age of 65 who slept less than five or six hours a night on a consistent basis were 65% more likely to die early when compared to participants who reported getting six or more hours of sleep a night. 65%! However, they also found that people in the study who reported sleeping less during the week but more on the weekends had no increased risk of early mortality. In other words, skimping on sleep during the week but making up for it on weekends may actually be good for you!
But don't make it a habit, say researchers. Consistent sleep is still the best option for maintaining your optimal health. Lead study author Torbjörn Åkerstedt is a professor of psychology at the Karolinska Institutet. He says that while his research is promising and seems to indicate that we can fight our sleep debt on the weekends, getting a consistent amount of sleep all week is what we should be aiming for.
To help keep your sleep consistent, experts recommend having the same bedtime and wake-up time every night and morning, and try not to make skimping on sleep a regular habit. Easier said than done, we know, but it's worth a try!