Unless you have children between 0 and 5, hitting the snooze button on weekends seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. After all, you probably didn’t get more than 6 hours per night during the week, so you have some “catching up” to do, right?
Wrong. If only it were that easy, more than a third of American adults would not be chronically sleep deprived on a regular basis.
Some people may still be hopeful after a recent study suggested that sleeping in on the weekend may be good for you. But don’t rush to conclusions.
This is where “social jet lag,” which is basically the discrepancy between when your body wants to sleep and when you actually sleep, comes in. One recent study found that social jet lag was associated with health problems, bad moods, and tiredness — and that every hour of difference between weeknight and weekend sleep was linked to an 11 percent increase in likelihood of heart disease.
Scientific evidence does not stop there. Other research shows that chronic sleep loss is not easy to recoup. Getting up at 6 a.m. every weekday but then suddenly sleeping until 1 p.m. on weekends disrupts the body’s internal clock. The lingering effect of chronic sleep loss causes performance to deteriorate dramatically.
“Don’t extend your wakeup time during the weekend by more than an hour or you’ll pay the price,” Dr. Karl Doghramji, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, says. On Monday and Tuesday your body will want to sleep more and you’ll feel tired and groggy all day. Your body is a whiz at spotting patterns, and it adjusts accordingly very quickly.
There is such thing as “sleeping too much.” If you wake up and feel refreshed, but decide to get another hour of sleep, you trigger another cycle of sleep, Dr. Michael Marino, medical director of Geisinger Sleep Labs, says. “And if you wake up in the middle of it, you break the cycle, which is why you wake up feeling fatigued, even though you slept 10 hours.”
The ideal amount of sleep is a range – usually between 6 and 9 hours. Some people feel great after sleeping for 6 hours, while others require longer. “But if you sleep 9 hours and still wake up tired, you may require an evaluation,” Dr. Marino says.
A solution to sleeping more on Saturday and Sunday and not waking up much later than usual is simple: a nap. Quick power naps, which may be a secret to live a long, happy life, can make you more alert. Napping during the day is especially beneficial to people who work in shifts, according to Dr. Doghramji. The best kind of nap is 20-30 minutes long and taken around the same time each day, he adds. Avoid extended naps after 4 p.m., because they can mess with your ability to fall asleep later.