Because our lives are so busy, we usually don't get the required hours of sleep that our bodies need or what’s recommended by sleep experts.
To compensate for this, many people sleep in on the weekends. But is it really effective and are there any effects of sleeping late?
Why We Sleep Late on the Weekends
In the United States, half the population gets less than seven hours of sleep at night during the week, according to an International Bedroom Poll in 2013. Many people try to make up for this by napping during the day, or by sleeping longer on the weekends. However, this strategy isn't completely successful and can even have negative effects.
Millions of people suffer from sleep deprivation. This can lead to a sleep debt, which is the difference between how much sleep you require and how much you're actually getting. Research shows that when you lose sleep even just a few days, it can affect you negatively and cause adverse effects on your immune, cardiovascular, nervous and endocrine systems. This can lead to:
- Impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes
- Obesity in children and adults
- Depressed mood
- Hypertension and cardiovascular disease
Although you may think you can catch up on your sleep on the weekend, it's unclear whether or not this will actually help reverse these negative effects. What’s more, numerous studies have been conducted on the effects of catching up on sleep, with results showing both benefits and detriments.
Is Sleeping Late on Weekends Good for You?
The American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism published a study involving 30 participants who were placed on a sleep-restricted workweek sleep schedule, followed by extra recovery sleep on the following weekend. The participant’s performance and health were assessed on the following:
- Attention span
- Sleepiness levels during the day
- Stress hormone cortisol levels
- Interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels of inflammation in their bodies
The study revealed that the sleepiness of the participants was indeed significantly increased when they were restricted sleep, but after their weekend of recovery sleep, it returned to baseline. Of course, this is only one study, but it does offer encouragement that recovery sleep might help.
Can You Catch Up on Your Sleep?
Now, the information from the aforementioned study might lead you to go ahead and sleep in on the weekends to overcome sleep deprivation during the week. However, before you do so, you might want to see the results of another study, which was reported by the National Sleep Foundation.
This particular study shows that not only is it impossible to really catch up on your sleep, but when you try to compensate for your lack of sleep during the workweek, the extra hours can actually worsen your reaction times and ability to focus .
Who is Most Inclined to Sleep In on Weekends?
Teenagers are more likely to indulge in weekend sleeping than adults. In fact, around 80 percent of teenagers don't get the nine hours of recommended sleep, particularly during their school week. They stay up late each night to do homework, spend time with friends, or participate in extracurricular activities — all of which results in them struggling to wake up the next morning for school.
This builds up a sleep deficit that teens usually use the weekends to make up for. This is not to say that middle-aged adults don't take advantage of their weekend mornings, too.
The Joys and Risks of Sleeping Late
Many people enjoy the guilty pleasure of sleeping late on weekends. It feels so good! But even if you feel more rested on Monday morning, this extra sleep won't eliminate the risks of sleep deprivation. In fact, it may even have downsides, such as disrupting in your circadian rhythm which makes it more difficult to get to sleep at night. This eventually creates a cycle of negative sleep patterns.
Bottom line is this: you can use the weekends as an occasional or short-term sleep strategy, but it's not something you should do regularly. Ideally, you should go to bed and get up in the morning at roughly the same time every day.